Google is great (apart from the not-paying-tax bit) BUT… if you only use the front page of Google to find information then you are only accessing around 0.002% of the web. Here are some quick tips to help you access the other 99.99%:
- Search across social media by keyword. This tells you what is happening now across Twitter etc, and also helps you link into other people’s research on your chosen topic, try http://addictomatic.com/ and http://whotalking.com/
- Try using metasearch engines that combine the results from a number of different individual search engines, such as http://www.search.com, http://www.mamma.com, http://www.dogpile.com, http://clusty.com
- Try searching through academic e-libraries. Resources such as http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ are free and hold many publications and articles. http://www.ipl.org/ has volunteers online to help your research. Google Scholar brings up academic papers, some of which are not free access – but you may be able to access an account through colleagues or friends. There are many pay-walled academic libraries which allow you to see synopses of papers before paying. Always worth Googling a research paper to see if a free version exists elsewhere online.
- Use library and archive databases, such as the British Library, National Archives or photo archives (such as http://www.rexfeatures.com/). Sometimes documents are viewable on-line, sometimes hard documents can be copied for you, but in most cases you’ll need to travel to the documents. Alternatively, get on the forums and see if someone is near the archive and could copy the doc for you. For photo libraries, you can usually view a small thumbnail for free to see if it is what you’re looking for before buying full size. And don’t forget YouTube – it has millions or archive clips; it’s not all teenagers pouring milk on themselves. And Hansard records everything said in Pariament. Search online in the 1803-2005 archive here (note: search function currently not working. Instead use google search term site:hansard.millbanksystems.com/ “search term here”), or find more recent records here.
- Also, newspaper archives can be valuable. Some are free, such as Google News Archive (it’s surprising what you can find out about UK events from Canadian newspapers), and some, such as http://www.ukpressonline.co.uk require payment to view articles but allow free searches so you can see if there are articles on your topic.
- Try adding different key words to your search terms, such asDatabase, Data, Portal, Gateway, Statistics, Library, ‘Subject guide’, ‘Reading list’.
- Try using wildcards, fuzzy searches or different spellings. For example, searching on ‘wom*n’ would find ‘woman’ and ‘women’. At the end of a word, eg, ‘politic*’ would find ‘politics’ and ‘political’. At the beginning of a word, eg, ‘*migration’ would find ‘migration’, ‘immigration’, ‘emigration’. Because people sometimes spell things incorrectly, you could try misspelling your search term, e.g. “Savile” and “Saville”
- Learn some basic search terms. My favourite at the moment is “-“. Useful where search results bring up thousands of incorrect results. Try the search again, but add “-[the word you want it to exclude]. E.g. “salt –vinegar” will bring you salt results but not trouble you with anything to do with vinegar.
- Try searching by domain, such as .gov.uk, .gov.uk, .nhs.uk, .ac.uk, .edu, .org, or by country specific domains to see what’s been created overseas on a topic. Experiment with other advanced search parameters, such as “filetype:[pdf or word etc.]”. Stipulate that the keyword is to appear in the website title or url, e.g. “allintitle:[keyword]”, “allinurl: [keyword]. Find sites that have linked to a particular page using “=link:[http://…]”
- Try using deep-web search engines. There are a handful here plus lots of other specialist search engines: http://oedb.org/library/college-basics/research-beyond-google
Footnote: I’d recommend saving a copy of anything you find that is particularly valuable to you. Information on the web is not permanent.