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google scholar logoTyping a word into a search engine such as DuckDuckGo, Google or Google Scholar, though incredibly fast, may produce millions of results. Here are some of the most useful ways to narrow down and improve the relevance of your search results.

Tips and tricks

Typing a word into Google, though incredibly fast may produce millions of results. A simple way of narrowing down and improving the relevance of your search results is to use a modifier. Here are some of the most useful:

Quotation marks 

Placing speech marks around the words “jaguar cars”, will ensure that those words are only picked up, when they are found next to one another. When typed in this way, the results are reduced from 50,000,000 to 455,000. 

Asterisk * 

If you are unsure of all the words within a phrase, the use of the asterisk within quotation marks is useful, as Google will search for the missing word. For example, you cannot recall the words from a line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Searching for what you do remember are the following words; be food of love. If you type “* be food of love” Google will suggest a missing word. Top of the results list is if music be the food of love

In title 

Another way of reducing your hits is by insisting that your search terms occur in the document title. For example: intitle:Irish tourism, produces around 400 thousand hits, compared to the phrase Irish tourism which returns over 88 million hits. 

In text 

If you want a webpage where all the words you are looking for, appear in the text of that page, as in Brexit negotiations, you would type into Google: allintext:brexit negotiations. 


If you want to find your search terms mentioned in the URL, you would for example type; allinurl:brexit faq. 


Inserting OR between your search terms is a great way to increase the number of results 

.. Number range 

Google searches can span numerical ranges. The range is indicated by two dots ... For example: Manchester Tyre Association business plan 2008..2012, will find documents covering 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

- Symbol 

In order to eliminate a potentially associated word you can use the minus symbol. For example: beetle –VW would return results for beetle but not if they contained VW 


Just type; translate [word] to [language]. For example: translate Montagne to English. (Answer is; mountain). It also works for phrases as in; translate my little flower to French (Answer is; ma petite fleur). 

Early Newspapers 

Google news allows you to search old archived newspapers from around the world, including many obscure titles. In Google type; "all newspapers" Google archive. 

Word Order 

Because of the complex algorithms that Google employs, inputting words in the order you would expect to find them has a bearing on the ranking of your hits. For example: football players in preference to; players football

Definitions & Synonyms 

If you type define by your search word. Google will search for definitions and synonyms of the word. Define: [word] 


Content originally shared by University of Manchester Library licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license