Google for Research: Things to keep in mind

Using Google for research? We all do. Here in the last part of the “Mastering Google” series, we look at potential pitfalls that you should avoid while “Googling”. I also mention a simple action plan that helps internalize these techniques.  Here are some things that you need to keep in mind while using Google for your research.

Too Long Didn’t Read

If there is anything you take away from this post, it is this:

  • Don’t trust the information at face value
  • Get your information for sites with a proven track record of providing quality information
  • Remember, the results are often sensitive to the nature of your search query. So, frame queries that are neutral and allow for a broader interpretation of a topic.
  • Use multiple searches and sources to gain a broader perspective on the topic.
  • Use keywords instead of questions while searching
A lamb in front of a blackboard with '2+2=5' written on it
Don’t be a sheep when it comes to doing your research. Image Credit: Michael Molton.

Don’t Take Information at Face Value

Never take the information presented to you at face value. Most of the results that appear are from invalidated sources. Google tries its best to identify credibility, but it fails in many scenarios. This is especially true when it comes to sensitive topics such as medicine and health. I usually ask these questions while looking for sources:

  • Who is the author?
  • When was the article published?
  • Is there a motivation for publishing this article?
  • What is the target audience?

If the answers to these are reasonable, you can be pretty confident in your source.

Look for Credible Sites

Following up with the previous tip, it is important to search for credible site. A credible site has a proven track record of providing valid information. For example, you might want to look at NASA’s website if you want information about recent advances in astronomy. Likewise, you might want to look at UN or World Bank websites for unemployment statistics.  

Answer Bias

This is a recent innovation that Google has brought about. Google aims to provide direct answers to questions. You might have seen featured snippets appear on your results page. In this process, Google sometimes gives you a biased answer. This ‘Answer Bias’ is something you should be aware of. There are some examples of controversial cases arising due to this answer bias. This is definitely a failure on Google’s part. There are a few things you can do to combat answer bias. Multiple queries and sources are likely to provide a better overview of the topic. This variance in the information provided helps reduce the effect of answer bias. Entering keywords instead of questions a query also helps. This is mostly to avoid the inherent bias that our questions bring forward. Let’s say, instead of searching – “How bad is an apple for you?” you can search “Apple Health Impact”. The latter query avoids any kind of bias and likely returns better results.

Action Plan to Implement Your Learning

Throughout this series, we have covered a range of hacks, techniques and pitfalls. Here’s a simple plan to utilize your newly found skills. 

  • Start by consciously looking for credible sources
  • Utilize google search hacks from part 1 and part 2 to optimize your search
  • Boost your productivity and avoid mundane/repetitive work by implementing ideas from part 3

Start implementing them in your searches because doing is the best way to learn. The benefits will become apparent to you soon enough. This is the final post in the “Mastering Google” series. Hope you’ve learnt some useful tricks and mindsets for using Google the right way.


Have you enjoyed our Mastering Google series? What other blog series would you like to see? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, by tweeting us @warwicklbrary or by emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

Header Image: Brett Jordan.

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