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Litigation Support Tool Tip – Mastering Google Sleuthing

By Amy Bowser-Rollins posted 08-09-2021 09:08


Please enjoy this blog post tip from Amy Bowser-Rollins, Instructor, Litigation Support Guru.

Have you ever had an attorney ask you to track down “something” or “someone” by running Google searches? I know I have!

Google has some nifty search tools that can help you narrow down what you’re trying to find. Let’s start with Google Advanced Search. If you don’t know the exact syntax to use, this tool can help prompt you for the information and then format the search syntax for you.

Here are some examples you can try:

  1. You can add a dash (or hyphen) in front of a word to tell Google you don’t want that word in your search results -- the equivalent of an AND NOT search. This is helpful if you’re getting a lot of false hits in your search results.

  2. If you’re searching specifically for a PDF file, you can use filetype:pdf along with your search terms. I use this one often when I’m searching for a guide or a report. It also works well for Word documents, Excel files, or PowerPoint presentations.

  3. If you only want to search only on a specific website, you can use along with your search terms. For example, load files will find articles talking about load files, but only on my website.

Now, let’s talk about the Google Guide that was developed by Nancy Blachman. This guide has a wealth of search syntax information organized as a reference.

The first thing I’d like to point out is the two-page PDF Cheat Sheet you can download. It includes a bunch of helpful search tools. Some of my favorites would be the allintitle: to search for terms in the title of the page only, or the allinurl: to search for words that appear in the URL.

Next, click on the Novices Click Here button.

Some goodies from this page include:

  1. Brevity is best when running searches – the less words the better.

  2. There’s no need to include “stop words” like the, in, on, where, how. Google ignores them.

  3. The order of your search terms matters. Google gives higher priority to pages that have the terms in the same order as your search query.

  4. Google is not case-sensitive. It doesn’t matter if you use Red Cross, red cross or RED CROSS.

  5. Google ignores most punctuation in your search terms including ! ? , ; #. It does, however, recognize plus signs and dollar signs.

  6. The tilde (~) can be used to search for synonyms. This is helpful if you’re not quite sure which word was used in the text, but you’re looking for the meaning of the word. For example, searching for ~inexpensive will match inexpensive, cheap, affordable, and low cost.

By the way, did you know there’s a way to search case law using Google? There’s a site called Google Scholar. I shared this helpful tip with my paralegal students.

Select Case Law and then click Select Courts.

You’ll be presented with a list of State and Federal courts. Select the courts you’re interested in and then click Done at the top of the list.

Enter your search terms and press Enter. Your search results will be displayed.

I hope you find these tips to be useful!