As the cliché goes – searching the Internet is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that a vast amount of information is available free of charge. A curse because a vast amount of information is available free of charge. The typical Google search can return millions if not billions of hits. How do you winnow done the results to insure you are looking at relevant, authentic information?
One of the first things you can do is apply the Boolean search techniques you use on Westlaw or Lexis. For example, if I search age discrimination on Google I get over 637 MILLION hits. But if I put my search terms in quotes I now have 5 million hits. Still way too many but there are other things I can do.
The best thing I can do is limit my search by domain. I can specify that I only want information on age discrimination published by a government source. A source I can count on for authentic information on a legal topic. To limit by domain, I add the word site with a colon after it and them the domain I want to restrict my search to. In this case site:.gov. Ok, now I’m down to 167 thousand results.
I can take advantage of the coding website developers do. Every website in its metadata has a title field. Your search would read intitle:”age discrimination.” Adding that to my search and keeping the domain limitation cuts my search results down to 1,400. What if instead of looking for my search terms in the title I searched for my terms in the URL? That brings my results to 527. Still good but I can do better.
Always take advantage of other people’s work. One of the things librarians love to do is to provide finding aids for their students and faculty. Things that list the major sources of law in a particular area. We call those things bibliographies or libguides. And we always make these things available on the net. Other academics publish what are know as white papers, an exploration of all of the aspects of a particular topic. Adding those words to your search terms will get you fewer but more relevant results. My search inurl:”age discrimination” site:edu bibliography gets me 82 results. Much more manageable than my original 637 million hits. And those pages are from highly respected law schools; schools whose information I can rely on.
You might also want to watch a brief video the library prepared on who to improve your internet searches. You can find it here: Google 2.0