Google Search Tips Part 2

Achieving the same effect as Boolean operators in Main Search

You can achieve the same effect in Main Search with all of the Boolean operators, with the exception of NEAR.

Advanced Search Main Search
OR The default; all terms entered without + or – are treated as if they were joined by OR. That is, the search engine looks for all instances in which one or another of those terms appears.
AND Precede a search term with a plus sign (+) to require that it be present.
AND NOT Precede a search term with a minus sign (-) to require that it NOT be present.

Note that these two are the same –

+Frankenstein +Dracula (Main) = Frankenstein AND Dracula (Advanced)

But this is something quite different: +Frankenstein Dracula

These search terms (like the equivalent “Dracula +Frankenstein”) would retrieve only pages on which the word “Frankenstein” appears, and of those pages, those that happened to also include the word “Dracula” would appear at the top of the list of matches.

To get the same result in Advanced Search, you would have to enter the word “Frankenstein” in the Boolean query box and the word “Dracula” in the Sort by box.

Using NEAR

If you were looking for an uncommon name in Main Search, you might start with just the name:

Alexander Bulatovich

That would give you all pages on which either “Alexander” or “Bulatovich” appeared. And the automatic ranking of Main Search would put the pages that have the less common word (Bulatovich) at the top of the list.

You would get a lot of irrelevant results from this search. And if you didn’t get the results you wanted, you might refine your search by typing the name in quotation marks so that it would be searched for as a phrase:
“Alexander Bulatovich”

That would retrieve all pages on which both words appeared together and in that order. Fewer pages, certainly, but you risk overlooking some you want. For example, you would miss pages where Alexander’s middle initial is used (Alexander X. Bulatovich), or where his last name appears first (Bulatovich, Alexander), which is common in faculty and student lists.

NEAR in Advanced Search gives you a way to avoid that problem. You can search for:

Alexander NEAR Bulatovich

Then you get every instance of those words within ten words of one another and in either order.

Don’t presume that your objective is to get a small number of matches. Make sure that your search has captured the full range of what you are in fact looking for, and that you haven’t inadvertently cut out the very thing that you are looking for.

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