Research is the foundation of any great project, product and manifestation of ideas. And when it comes to conducting research, there are a handful of ways to gather the data you need.
While primary data is a crucial component of your project (remember, it’s the crust of your market research pizza), collecting it isn’t always an option. That’s when we look for alternative methods to gathering information.
One such method is using Google in a strategic way. While we wrote a blog on why Google isn’t a replacement for formal, scholarly research, it can be a great place to start when beginning a project.
You just need to know what key words to use in search queries and what to look for in a source to determine whether you can use that data.
What Keywords Do I Use?
It can be a bit overwhelming to figure out what words or phrases will yield the search results you need. There are ways to maneuver yourself around this issue so that you’re not spending most of your time frustrated by your lack of results.
- Use Google Advanced Search. This will help you limit your results to a specific selection. This is great if you’re looking for strictly .edu or .org websites for information.
- The minus sign. When looking for similar words to the one you’re using, include the minus (-) sign in your google search. This will exclude the word in the search (e.g. -decaf).
- Don’t use full sentences. You’ll find more specific information if you use keywords instead of full sentences or questions. Ensure that every word you use describe the results you want.
What To Look For In A Source
Reliable information comes from reliable sources. While this is obvious, it can be frustrating because it’s always an extra step to make sure the data you’re finding is reputable. However, there are some tricks that can help streamline the process. We’ve outlined the top three below.
- The date. This may sound ridiculously simple, but if you’re looking for data, chances are if the study is published in 2005, it’s probably outdated, unless it’s a landmark study in the field that is cited in multiple and recent publications.
- Avoid all websites that do not site their sources. It could be tempting when you find really great information, but it’s important to cite the direct source. If the information found is key, try Googling the statistic itself to find its original source.
- Don’t use Wikipedia. But you can use the sources! It’s well known that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. However, if you find some interesting information on it, scroll to the bottom and look at the sources listed. Chances are, you can strike gold.
As the saying goes, everything’s on the internet. As we’ve established, this is helpful and a bit of a pain. However, there are some not always obvious ways to use Google to find what you need in a more efficient and time-friendly manner. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Google Scholar. This is one of the fastest ways to sift through the vast amounts of information available on the web. Do keep in mind that Google Scholar search results vary in quality. Refer to our tips above on auditing your sources.
- Research Guides. This is a great tool offered by a lot of colleges to explore to find recommended websites that will help you along. Visit your school library’s website or ask your librarian for help to find it.