Top tips from Google's Power Searching course

by Lindsay Kalter
Oct 30, 2018 in Data Journalism

With a few keystrokes and a click, anyone with Internet access can find tons of information in under a second.

But there's still more to learn, said Daniel Russell, senior research scientist for Google and instructor of a recent online training session, Power Searching with Google.

Here are four of the tips and techniques he discusses in the six-class series that journalists will find useful.

Search by image

Although most Google searches are text queries, Russell says simply using a picture can also yield helpful results. If, for example, you want to discover the origin or location of a picture, here's how: save the image on your computer desktop, then select the "Image" tab on the Google toolbar and drag the image from your desktop to the search window. Hit the search button and Google returns a text description that best matches its potential origin, along with similar image results.

Use Google Books to verify quotes

"Quotes are typically very hard to verify," Russell said. "Often it's because a single person has repeated something so many times, they get the attribution rather than the person who originally said it." To check books for quotes, click on the "More" tab and choose "Books" from the drop-down menu. Enter the book in which you suspect the quote will be featured. Press enter, then click "Advanced Search." You can select from a number of options, including "full view only." This will allow you to search a complete publication for the phrase in question. Once you've selected a book, enter the quote in the search box.

Filter image results by color

When looking for an image using a text query, Russell says that searching by color is a little-known but useful trick. After entering a search term into the "Image" tab and viewing the results, a color panel appears on the left side of the screen. Results can be viewed in a color palette or black and white. You can find archival imagery more easily by selecting the black and white option, for example, narrowing your search "tesla coil" to the actual diagram. "In a lot of cases, the background in which an image is embedded, or the surrounding perimeter of colors, often imply a context of use, or a context in which you get additional information," Russell said.

Use the search panel

Russell encourages Google searchers to explore the left-hand panel on the search page. For example, if you want to know how news in the Eurozone is being reported in various foreign publications, click on "show search tools" to show the panel, and then click on "translated foreign pages."

Google lists various languages at the top of the screen, to which the user can add or subtract. Select the desired language and click on any link for a translation. The search panel can also be used to narrow results using various criteria, including date published, Russell said.

Photo CC-licensed on Flickr.