Posted On January 6, 2016 by Print This Post

Five Google Search Tips for Authors by Virginia Kelly

Help me welcome first time poster Virginia Kelly! Virginia is not only an author – but she’s also a librarian! I know! Dream job, right? =)

I’m a librarian and author. There’s a cute little graphic that reads: “Librarian. The original search engine.” But even librarians google. We type in a few of the most important words that describe the research, use what we’ve learned about how Google works, and retrieve a good set of results that leads to the information we need.

Here are a few Google search tips you might find useful as you use the world’s most popular search engine. There are many, many more.

1) Quotation marks aren’t just for dialogue: ever hear a song with lyrics you can’t understand? Try putting quotes around a few words you do understand, like this:

“runner in the night”

(Manfred Mann’s version of Blinded by the Light, written by Bruce Springsteen. Listen sometime. You’ll see what I mean about the lyrics. It’s the word just before this small quote that gets me every time.)

Quotation marks limit Google (and other search engines) to present results with the words inside the quotes IN THAT ORDER.

In addition, Google does something you may have seen. You typed a particular word, but the results turn up a synonym of the words you typed in, or maybe the root word plus a suffix, not the one you entered, or just the root word. That’s another time to use quotes, only place the quotes around a single word. Example (my current WIP is about a Delta Force operator):

“delta force” rank promotion

My results include the words promoted and promote. But I only want the word promotion, so I use quotes around the word “promotion” to stop Google from stemming (using various root word stems), like this:

“delta force” rank “promotion”

Quotes around a single word also stops Google from automatically substituting your word for a synonymous word, and also stops stemming.

Note that I don’t bother capitalizing letters, Google isn’t case sensitive.

2) Are you about to use a popular quote, but can’t remember one word in that quote? Try using Google’s wildcard character (*) in place of that word. For instance:

“out * spot”

Note that the wildcard works only within quotes.

3) Do you want results based on a specific period of time? Google has other search features that become available after an initial search. Here’s an example:

fbi scandal

Check your results. They’re from all periods of time. (Two of my book heroes are FBI agents.)

Look just below the search box you typed in. The links read: All, News, Videos, Images, etc. At the end of that line is Search Tools. Click Search Tools. Another set of linked options appears. One is called Any time. Click on Any time and you’ll see a dropdown menu from which you can click on a specific period of time or pull up a Custom Range calendar. Here’s the graphic example:


4) You can ask Google to return hits from a specific top-level domain name or a specific website. Armed with an understanding of domain names and what type of information each provides, you can limit your searches. Click here for a link that explains these. Note the original unrestricted and original restricted domains. That’s important. For instance, if your new heroine is a librarian, but you know nothing about librarian jobs or the education required, you can use this format at the end of your search words (site dot 3 letters –no spaces at all ) where xxx is the 3-letter domain:

librarian careers

The .gov domain is excellent for statistics and for leading you directly to government sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides clear information about careers, including salaries, education, type of work, etc. If you’re searching for statistical information, or medical information, I strongly urge you to use the .gov domain. You’ll find information from sites such as NIH and the CDC. Crime information (I write romantic suspense) turns up on the FBI website and other government sites that maintain statistics.

You can drill down farther into a specific website. Like this:

librarian careers

Note that one of first few links is titled: “ – Are you too sexy for your job?” 😉

5) Image searches are extremely popular. You’ve probably heard about bloggers who were sued for using images protected by copyright. Here’s a way to search for images you can legally use.

Enter your search by using the Images link in Google. Once you see your results, look for the Search Tools link, just as you did in tip number 3, above. Here you’ll find Size, Color, Type, Time and Usage Rights options. Click on Usage Rights and you’ll be able to select an image you can use legally. Read carefully!

Bonus tip: if you can’t remember these tips, or if you want more options when using Google, enter your basic search, and then look to the far right. There will be a graphic of a gear:

Image5Click on the gear and you’ll be able to use Google’s Advanced Google, which provides more options, such as the ability to locate file types such as PowerPoint, .pdf, and more.

I hope some of these tips will help you more easily retrieve the information you need. Over my years of teaching college research, I’ve learned that college students consider themselves expert searchers. More often than not, they type very wordy questions into Google’s search box, with little success. I remind them to keep it simple, check out Google’s Help, and ask a librarian. 🙂


Ok RU researchers – here’s your big chance to ask a librarian anything! Dive in!

Join us on Friday for Heather Boyd.


Bio: Virginia Kelly’s first story involved a mouse that hitched a ride with Paul Revere. She was eleven. A bit later, dreams of romance (and the requisite happily ever after), adventure, and danger came together in her RWA Golden Heart nominated novel, To the Limit. Her books have been nominated for several awards including the Holt Medallion, the Golden Quill, the Aspen Gold and the National Readers Choice Awards. She writes about dangerous heroes (sexy, gorgeous ones, of course!) and the adventurous women willing to take a chance on them. An academic librarian, Virginia is a native of Peru and lives in Florida with her family.

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All books are stand-alone reads, but if you prefer to read related books in order:
Against the Wind (Michael Alvarez)
Just One Look (Mia Alvarez)

Take a Chance on Me (Working title – coming in 2016)

Dancing in the Dark (Janey Blackmon)
In the Arms of a Stranger (JP Blackmon)

To the Limit

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26 Responses to “Five Google Search Tips for Authors by Virginia Kelly”

  1. Great tips! Some of this I knew, but plenty I didn’t. It’s easy to become complacent and set in the same habits, forgetting to check if there’s a newer, more effective way to search.

    So useful I’ve saved it to Evernote for permanent reference. Thanks!

    Posted by Becky Black | January 6, 2016, 6:23 am
  2. Virginia, so useful, thank you very much! The usage rights tip will be a godsend! That particular challenge has been driving me crazy.



    Posted by Faith | January 6, 2016, 7:21 am
  3. Good morning Virginia!

    how on earth could I not know about the wild card??? I use google every. single. day and that will help so much!

    I use the advanced search options all the time when I’m trying to find an answer to a tech question…search tools>anytime>past year….otherwise I’d keep getting answers to my questions that were 3-6 years old. that was no help!

    great post, thanks so much Virginia!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 6, 2016, 8:50 am
  4. Hi Carrie. Ah, the wildcard. My students want to use that symbol on everything, despite my warnings on how it works. Good luck with your research!

    Posted by Virginia Kelly | January 6, 2016, 9:07 am
  5. Thanks so much for this! I was chagrined to find that I knew so little, paid poor attention, and forgot some things I’d known. LOL I shared this with my writing chapter.

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | January 6, 2016, 9:15 am
  6. Hi Natalie, good to “see” you again 🙂 Thanks for reading, and good luck with your research!

    Posted by Virginia Kelly | January 6, 2016, 9:30 am
  7. Oh, these are very helpful tips. A great reference. I’m bookmarking this post. Thanks, Virginia!

    Posted by Ann Voss Peterson | January 6, 2016, 9:37 am
  8. Great post!

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | January 6, 2016, 11:02 am
  9. Thanks for the great tips. I learned some new things and I will definitely be putting them to use.

    Posted by Jillian Chantal | January 6, 2016, 11:06 am
  10. EXCELLENT tips!! Very useful. I knew about the quotations around a specific group of words. That’s it – everything else is new to me.
    THANK YOU so much!

    Posted by Trisha Faye | January 6, 2016, 2:25 pm
  11. Thanks so much for this post. The specific ways to do a Google search is one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. I’m off do try out the *.

    Posted by Susan Vaughan | January 6, 2016, 2:36 pm
  12. Wow — I thought I knew a thing or two about Google. Turns out that’s ALL I know. LOL Thanks for such great info. I know I’ll be using this a lot, because when the writing isn’t going well, I love to “research”. 🙂

    Posted by Donna Cummings | January 6, 2016, 3:47 pm
  13. I know just what you mean, Donna. There’s a lot of “research” going on when my writing hits a slump :-} Happy researching!

    Posted by Virginia Kelly | January 6, 2016, 3:56 pm
  14. Awesome tips, Virginia! This will refine the results so much better and will save hours scrolling through links that are not what I was looking for. Thank you!

    Posted by Sheila Seabrook | January 6, 2016, 4:45 pm
  15. Thank you for this fabulous post!

    I can barely remember Life Before Google. How did I ever look things up? Well, I always had a couple of dictionaries on my desk, but they have limited usefulness. It drives my husband crazy when people in the business world don’t know how to use Google. It is sooo helpful, and so easy to use! That said, I did NOT know about the tips you mentioned in item number 4. Thank you so much! I’m eager to try that.

    Which is probably the one drawback to Google – I can avoid writing for hours by trying to confirm or research material for the story as I write. 🙂

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 6, 2016, 9:13 pm
    • Becke, I can easily avoid writing for hours by googling. I said I would list 5 tips, but you mentioned dictionaries. I don’t use one anymore. I google this: define WordToBeDefined, so, for instance: define default. It used to be that you had to type a colon after the word define, but no more. And, now you get a pronunciation. Very cool.

      Good luck with writing and not researching too much:-)

      Posted by Virginia Kelly | January 6, 2016, 10:09 pm


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