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MARITIME HISTORY ON THE INTERNET

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by Peter McCracken

Advanced Google Searching: A Reminder

oogle is, without question, an amazing search tool. It can be tempting to denigrate Google and suggest that Google does a lousy job of getting access to content, but any empirical study of the ease with which anyone can find information these days would clearly show that Google—and the other search engines that have followed it—has revolutionized access to information. When Google’s founders developed the idea that one could judge the value or authority of a web page based on the number and type of other webpages that linked to it—and the authority of a linking webpage was based on the value of the webpages that linked to it—they revolutionized the process of searching online. After twenty years of creating, refining, and constantly improving the algorithms that underlie the entire Google ranking system, and more recently combining that work with structured metadata, Google has made it incredibly easy to find useful and relevant information online. This is no small feat and one to be impressed by, but there are still tricks and tips that help improve your ability to get the most out of a Google search. Below are a few tools you can employ to enhance using Google as your search engine. When you type in multiple search terms, Google assumes that you want an “and” between each word you type; that is, you want all the words you type to appear on the pages it returns. Google goes a step further by sometimes searching for synonyms of the words you use, and returning searches that don’t include all of the terms you use. When it does this, you know because it is indicated on the return listing when that’s the case, and allows you to rerun the search requiring that all the words are present. If you want to guarantee that all words you type in are present, and especially if you have a specific order in which they should appear, you can put the words in quotes or sections of your search words in quotes. While this can be helpful in some situations, Google is quite good at recognizing that words near each other in the search phrase should be near each other in the results pages it returns. Typing in a question just as you would ask a person will yield a result pretty close to what you would expect from an actual human being. If you want to do a search that includes multiple terms for a particular inquiry, use “OR” between words, as in sloop OR ketch OR yawl. A search for (sloop OR ketch OR yawl) sail will look for pages that mention sloop AND sail, ketch AND sail, or yawl AND sail, while a search for sloop ketch yawl sail will display pages that have all four terms before pages with just one or two of the terms. If you want to exclude a specific term, you can put a minus sign ahead of the term. For example, you might search for schooner -glass, to exclude pages about the type of beer glass. Or, if you are finding a lot of irrelevant results, you can add terms to be ignored, through the use of the minus sign. To narrow down your search to a specific phrase, you can click the Tools button under the search bar, then change All Results to Verbatim. Limiting searches by site or by site-type is another very useful tool. For example, the search “hms victory” site:gov.uk combines two advanced tools: by combining the terms hms and victory within one set of quotation marks, we can narrow the search to just the term “hms victory”. And by limiting it to websites that end with “.gov.uk” we are only receiving webpages published by the British government. We could go further and add some time limitations to this. For example, you can click on Tools, then change the date when the page was last updated from Any Time (the default) to, say, Past Month. The bottom of that drop-down menu also has a Custom Range option, which allows you to specify specific dates from which you want to see results. When you click on Images or Maps or News, you can limit those results even further, to various types of resources. These are just a few ways that you can use advanced searching in Google, but plenty more exist. Click Settings, then Advanced Search, to see many more options. Suggestions for other sites worth mentioning are welcome at peter@shipindex. org. See www.shipindex.org for a free compilation of over 150,000 ship names from indexes to dozens of books and journals. 58

SEA HISTORY 169, WINTER 2019–20

Sea History 169 - Winter 2019-2020  

12 A Century of the Jones Act, by Salvatore R. Mercogliano, PhD • 18 The Catalpa Incident: An American Whaler Getaway Vessel and Australia’s...

Sea History 169 - Winter 2019-2020  

12 A Century of the Jones Act, by Salvatore R. Mercogliano, PhD • 18 The Catalpa Incident: An American Whaler Getaway Vessel and Australia’s...