By Carol Bannen, Director of Information Resources, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C., Milwaukee
May 2, 2012 – Although you may use Google every day, you might not be aware of its many new enhancements and current features. Sixty-six percent of Internet searching is done using Google, but because Bing and other competitors are nipping at its heels, Google constantly works on improvements.
Advanced search feature narrows the search – but it’s not so easy to find
One of Google’s most helpful features is the Advanced Search. Advanced Search lets you use more Boolean (terms and connectors) logic. You can search with “all the words,” “any of the words,” “none of the words,” “exact phrase,” and more. You can also limit your search by document type such as PDF, Power Point, or images. You can limit to a domain, too, for example, .gov, .edu, or .org. Limiting your search may help you zero in on exactly what you are looking for.
A link to Advanced Search used to appear on the main homepage, but it has now moved. To find it, you need to run an initial search from the Google homepage. You will then see a gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen. When you click on the gear icon four options appear. Select the “Advanced Search” option. Alternatively, you can bookmark the following websites and start your search here:
More options coming soon
Google is also giving its search engine formula a refresher. Over the next few months, Google’s search engine will start showing more facts and direct answers to questions at the top of the search results page. This will not replace the current keyword search that ranks websites on the words it contains or how often other sites link to it and other measures, but it does add more “semantic search,” which looks at the actual meaning of words.
Neutralize your search
Although you may not realize it, Google produces different results depending on who you are. If you want the most neutral results, you should make sure you are logged out of a Google account. Your screen should say “Sign In” with no mention of your name in the upper right. There is another tip on how to neutralize your results: When you see the gear icon on a search results page, select “Web History.” From there select “Disable customization based on Web History.” You can quickly change the search to personalized results at the same spot or by logging into your personalized Google.
Adding more court opinions to Google Scholar
Many attorneys use Google Scholar because it is offering more and more federal and state court opinions. Go to http://scholar.google.com or the advanced search page mentioned above and enter a citation in the search box. Check the button “legal opinions and journals” and from there enter a legal citation, for example, 410 U.S. 113. At the top you will see two tabs: “Read this Case” and “How Cited.” The citator tab will show how other cases have quoted your case and on the right you will see cases that have cited your case. The new change is how Google has sorted the citations to the case based on the extent of discussion of the cited case and not by prominence.
Regarding the coverage of Google Scholar court opinions, Google says, “[C]urrently, Google Scholar allows you to search and read published opinions of U.S. state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, U.S. federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and U.S. Supreme Court cases since 1791. In addition, it includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles which allows you to find influential cases (usually older or international) which are not yet online or publicly available.” You will not be able to obtain all the Wisconsin case law in Google Scholar because it will not search Wisconsin case law prior to 1950.
Archives for historians
Google Archives still allows you to search historical newspapers, but nothing new has been added since May 2011. Google will not be putting any more energy into this project. The easiest way to search a particular newspaper is to go to http://news.google.com/newspapers. If you are looking for old news (back to the beginning of many newspapers), in general you can still do a full-text search in the archives. You can also run a search in Google News and then narrow your search in the archives by clicking the link on the left under the date restrictors. This website is a treasure trove for genealogists but also is helpful to litigators and others researching the past.
Google reaches out to phones, credit cards, and apps
Google’s enhancements to searching and content are only part of its overall growth. To capture even more use, Google Wallet lets you use your phone as a credit card, and Google Play will make your entertainment instantly available across all your devices. Google’s “Project Glass,” which envisions wrap-around glasses that include all your apps, is on the horizon. The beat goes on.
About the author
Carol Bannen is the director of Information Resources for Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C., Milwaukee. Bannen is responsible for the firm’s research, records, and knowledge management operations. She formerly served as the firm’s head librarian.