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Google Power: Finding ANYTHING on the Web Part I

I am a Google ninja. I can find darn near anything (or anyone) on Google, because I know how to use all its secret tools. And it has a lot of secret tools. Journalists I’ve worked with sometimes call or email me asking me to help them find something on the internet. I'm just that good. (And totally modest about it, too.)

I'm going to do a short series today and Monday to teach you how to use the same mad ninja skillz.

Today we're going to look at basic searches and Google search tools. On Monday we're going to look at my favorite advanced search tools. If I get an overwhelming response, I can add additional parts to the series.

One little caveat: It can be scary to realize just how much information about you is available on the internet. You are not anonymous online. If someone really knows what they're doing, they can track down all kinds of free information about you by using just your email address or just your name. We'll look at name searches tomorrow -- you may find them especially useful if you have a detective in your story.

Google Basics

Most people know how to conduct a basic Google search. You type a word or words into the Google Search box and go. You can even type your query in the form of a question.

So let’s say I want to learn more about plagiarism. I just type plagiarism, and I get results like, which explains what it is and how to avoid it; the Wikipedia entry; and the Purdue OWL, which is the college’s writing help center.

Maybe I want to learn about anti-plagiarism software, which compares a paper's contents to a huge database of written material. I change my query to anti-plagiarism software.

Basic Built-In Google Tools

Did you know you can use Google as a calculator? A dictionary? A spellchecker? Here's how.

Calculator: Simply type the equation into the Google search box, and Google will give you an answer.
  • For example, 5*9= or 6/3=
Dictionary: Type define and the word you want to define, and you will get back a list of definitions.
  • For example, define anorexia
Spellchecker: Just type the word you have in mind, and if you're close, Google will respond with "Did you mean: (correct spelling)?"

Built-In Google Search Tools

If you want to search for a term and its synonyms, use the tilde sign (~) before your search term.
  • Example: ~anorexia pulls up information not only on anorexia, but also on eating disorders.
If you want to find web pages that have content similar to the site you're on, type related: followed by the web address.
  • Example: pulls up alternate blogging systems, including WordPress and LiveJournal.
If you want to search within a particular site, use [search term] site:[site]

Once you've got these tricks down, come back for the truly advanced tricks, the ones that will help you find anything (and anyone)....


  1. Angela Ackerman said...
    Oh wow--this is so awesome! I can't wait to see what else you discover the Google Gods can do!
    Michelle McLean said...
    awesome post! Looking forward to the next one :D
    Anonymous said...
    Thanks--this is great!! I thought I was a pretty good internet searcher, but I learned quite a bit just from your post for beginners.
    Rie said...
    very interesting
    Ana - The Writer Today said...
    This is great information. I did not know you can do more with a search in Goggle besides the basics. Thank you.
    Unknown said...
    Fantastic stuff here! Thanks so much for sharing. Google's vastness is really incredible (and scary sometimes!). I've been using and loving their maps and translators for some now.
    Robin M said...
    Great post. My search engine of choice is dogpile. Will have to see if it does all that stuff like google. Look forward to hearing what else Google can do.
    Kate Karyus Quinn said...
    Oooh this is excellent! I knew about the spellchecker (whenever Word freaks out over a word I'm pretty certain is legit, I double check with Google for their opinion) but the rest of the stuff is awesome information! Can't wait for the next post.
    Cynde L. Hammond said...
    Hi, Carolyn--

    This is just what I have been looking for! I hope it's ok with you if I link back to your article when I do mine, so that I can give you some advertising.

    I think we writers need to support each other, don't you? By the way...I signed up to "follow" you, also. I'm so glad that I found your blog today--it's incredible! Furthermore,I'm going to put your blog on my "BlogList" on the front of my blog.

    Thanks for all of this valuable research information. It's just what I need!

    Cynde's Got The Write Stuff

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