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Research Skills

Information to help students find, evaluate, reference, and write for their assignments

Searching online Need to Knows

The Internet offers a wealth of information and, let's be honest, Google and similar online search engines are simple places to search for instant answers. It's easy to get into the habit of only using Google to find what we think we need to know.

However, you will have discovered in the Critical evaluation of sources section, that you actually need to be selective about where you look online to find reliable and academically appropriate information.

Use the quick links below to guide you on how to search effectively and efficiently online to find quality sources.

Quick links

Google Advanced Search

Using the standard Google search is not an efficient way to find information because of the huge number of results it retrieves, most of which will be irrelevant to your research.

Google Advanced Search gives you a set of search criteria so you can really narrow your results. It will save you a lot of time and allow you to find sources that are suitable for academic study much more easily.

Follow the steps below to learn how to use Google Advanced Search.

1. Type in your keywords in a standard Google search and hit enter. You need to do this to get to the next layer, as Google Advanced Search is not accessible from the Google main page.

2. Click on the settings cog in the top right-hand corner of the results page. Then select "Advanced search" from the dropdown menu:

3. The first set of criteria that you can use to refine your search are the same as the pro searching techniques you learnt in the Developing a search strategy section (Boolean operators and phrase searching). The explanation on the right-hand side will help work out what each box does:

4. The second set of criteria helps you refine your search by things like geographic location (maybe you only want information published in the United States, for example), site or domain (remember, academic websites that end in .ac or .edu will give you reliable information), and the date the page was last updated (this is crucial if you need information published recently):

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a Google search engine that specifically searches for academic sources, namely journal articles and eBooks.

It is an excellent tool to use alongside OneSearch if you know you need good quality academic sources or peer-reviewed journal articles.

Follow the steps below to learn how to use Google Scholar.

1. Use a standard Google search to search for "Google scholar". When you click on the top result, it will open the Google Scholar which looks almost identical to a standard Google search:

2. Click on the hamburger in the top left-hand corner to get to select "Advanced search" from the dropdown menu:

3. Just like the standard Google advanced search, the Google Scholar advanced search offers lots of criteria to refine your search by and uses the same strategies as the pro searching techniques you learnt in the Developing a search strategy section (Boolean operators and phrase searching):

4. The result list offers further filters on the left-hand side to refine your search. The number of citations (times the article has been used in other academic works) can be an indication of the usefulness of the article (a high citation number suggests it contains useful information):

Accessing articles

You may not have free access to all articles as some will require a paid subscription to the journal that published them. However, Wintec may hold a subscription to the journal you want. If you click on the title of an article and you find you can't access it, go back to the results screen and look to see if "Wintec Article Finder" appears on the right-hand side of the results list. It will take you through to the article in the Wintec databases:


DuckDuckGo is a search engine much like the standard Google search, but it gives you truer results. This is because, unlike Google, it does not track your searches or record your search history. It stores no information about you and your search habits.

Because Google tracks your searches so that it can tailor advertising to you and personalise results, it means that your past searches affect what you see in future searches. Google also tracks your IP address (your geographic location), and tailors results accordingly. Both these things mean your results may not be exactly what you want or need.

However, not only does DuckDuckGo protect your privacy and therefore has better search option optimisation (SEO), it crawls across other search engines like Bing, Yahoo and Wikipedia to give more comprehensive results. It's biggest disadvantage is that it does not have an advanced search.

You can either download it and install it onto your Chrome web-browser, or use the Duck Duck Go browser and bypass Chrome altogether.

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