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Google Tips: Home

This LibGuide provides tips and techniques for searching Google.

Google Tips

Make a Search Term Mandatory and Search for Bound Phrases

When you put a search word in quotes you make it a mandatory term: Google's results must include that word.


When you search for two or more words in quotes the phrase is mandatory and the order of the words is also mandatory. For example, "bills super bowl" is a different search than "super bowl bills." Other examples include:
“business opportunity”
“college athlete”
“investment strategy”
“market research”
“librarian extraordinaire”

Expand Your Search with Synonyms

You can expand your search by including synonyms. To include synonyms, use OR between the words. The word OR should be in capital letters. You can use two or more synonyms; for example, dessert OR cake OR ice cream. Good sources for synonyms are thesauruses, professors, and published articles. 

Restrict Your Search by Internet Domain

You can limit your results to either a general domain or to a specific Web site.


The Web is organized by domains. A domain is a type of site. There are many domains. Examples of domains include:
.edu for higher education sites
.com and .co for commercial sites
.org for non-profit entities, schools, open-source projects, and communities
.gov for government Web sites
.mil for military sites


You can add the following syntax to your search to limit results to a general domain: site:.domain. For example, to limit results to higher education Web sites, add the following to your search: One possible search is: financial aid


You can also limit your results to exact Web sites. For example, to get results from only Harvard University, use in your search. To get results from only the White House Web site, include in your search.


You can exclude sites by using a minus sign before the code: for example, you can include to exclude results from .com sites.

Restrict Your Search by File Type

You can limit your results to specific computer application files by adding the following syntax to your search: filetype:file-extension-name. Examples of file types include:


Adobe PDF pdf
Adobe PostScript ps
Lotus 1-2-3 wk1, wk2, wk3, wk4, wk5, wki, wks, wku
Lotus WordPro lwp
MacWrite mw
Microsoft Excel xls
Microsoft PowerPoint ppt
Microsoft Word doc
Microsoft Works wks, wps, wdb
Microsoft Write wri
Rich Text Format rtf
Shockwave Flash swf
Text ans, txt

For example, to search for only pdfs, add filetype:pdf to your search. To search for only Excel files, add filetype:xls.To search for only PowerPoint files, add filetype:ppt.


One possible search is: climate change filetype:ppt. Results must be PowerPoint presentations.

Mix and Match Different Search Functions

All of Google’s special search functions can be combined. A strong search includes different elements, for example, a bound phrase, a limit to a domain, and a limit to a file type. For example, the following search may find examples of reports by Inspectors General on US government Web sites: "inspector general" report filetype:pdf


Examples of companies' sexual harassment forms may be found by searching:
"sexual harassment" form filetype:pdf


Examples of professors and college students' PowerPoint presentations on college athletes may be found by searching:
"college athletes" filetype:ppt