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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Improving Your Research Skills

This guide will help you improve your research skills through searching library databases, searching Google, and evaluating sources.

Advanced Searching Tools

Google has lots of secret tips and tricks to improve your searches. Check out some of these tools to use Google more effectively.

Search Tools

Word/Symbol What Does It Do? Example
Site: searches for a specific website mental health
Related: searches for a website similar to one you already know
Before: searches for results published before a certain date coronavirus before:2020-3-11
After: searches for results published after a certain date depression after:2020-3-11
Define:  searches for definitions of a specific term define: emotional support animal
Around searches for terms within a certain number of words (in example, within 4 words) cats around(4) depression
"" (Quotes) searches for exact word or phrase "mental health"
.. (Two Dots) searches for a specific number range 2016..2020
* (Star) acts as a placeholder for searches with unknown terms emotional support animals * laws
- (Minus) excludes certain words from a search emotional support animals -dogs


Using words like “AND,” “OR,” or “NOT” will help refine your results. These words are called Boolean operators, and each serves a different purpose for your research.

AND Boolean, with middle of Venn Diagram filled in



Using AND means that all of your results will include both the keyword “depression” and the keyword “mental health.” AND can help narrow your results.





OR Boolean, with entire Venn Diagram filled in


Using OR means that some of your results will only have the keyword “mental health,” some will only have the keyword “depression,” and some will have both. OR can help broaden your results.





NOT Boolean, with left side of Venn Diagram filled in


Using NOT means that all of your results will include the keyword “mental health,” and none of your results will include the keyword “depression.” NOT is used when you want to eliminate a word that is dominating the conversation.

Getting to Google Advanced Search

To get to Google Advanced Search, on Google’s homepage, click on “Settings” in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, then “Advanced Search.”

Google homepage with settings and advanced search


Find Pages With

This area will let you search for specific words and phrases, eliminate words you don’t want to see, and make sure all your results include certain words.

Google Advanced Search Find Pages With screen


Narrow Your Results

This area will let you narrow your results by language, date, file type, or word usage.

Advanced Search page with narrow your results screen

Learn More About Advanced Google Searching