by J. A. Buxton
An explanation on how to use the Google search engine. .
Google - A Writer’s Tool: Part I
First, a warning! Look at any site with caution when using Google in particular or the Internet in general. Not all you might read is 100 percent accurate. Some might contain outdated information, some are on the web with unchecked facts, and some might just be urban legends meant to fool you. If in doubt, read more than one site on a particular subject or follow through the old fashioned way, by reading a book
For any writer who wants to stray from ordinary knowledge and refuses to “dumb down” their pieces, there are many ways to research. Having a large collection of books in your home is one way, but it can get rather expensive. As a person who owns dozens of reference books, I can attest to this. It’s also time consuming to spend time deciding which book contains the information you need.
Enter the Internet and, in particular, Google. For any of you who have been living in a cave for the last few years, Google is a search engine. The name is a play on the word googol, which refers to the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. There are many ways to use Google.
We’ll start by using the above link. Google has many fairly basic features, and I will cover these first.
Web Images Videos Maps News Shopping Mail More
Web is the simplest way and used by the majority of people since it’s the default. Let’s try a couple examples. Type CSI in the rectangular box then click on the Google Search icon. Ignore the I’m Feeling Lucky icon. I used my favorite TV show as an example, but any word will do. You’ll see that there are many web sites for CSI, so you get to pick and choose the most helpful to you. The most heavily accessed in the past will be on the first page.
Okay, remove CSI and instead type Petersen, the last name of the actor on CSI. After you hit the Search icon, you will see a lot of sites related to any that have the name Petersen in it. Way too many, right?
To narrow it down, go to the top of that screen and type William Petersen to list sites again. Much better, but still more than you need to know. We want to learn more about one particular movie and not his biography or anything about CSI. Now type William Petersen The Beast, which is my favorite WP movie. Up on the first page will come sites ONLY about this movie. As you can see, it’s possible to narrow your search by putting more information into the search box.
A second way to use Google is with Images. Leaving only William Petersen in the search box, click on Images above the box. This brings up any image of William Petersen on the web, so let’s narrow the search down further by once again typing The Beast after his name and click on the Search icon to the right of the box. This is much better, even though many images still are not related to that movie.
If you want to access videos from various online sites, you can use Videos. After you type CSI and click on the Search Videos, you will see a list of videos from YouTube and other sites related to the word CSI. Sadly, William Petersen has left CSI, so he no longer is in most of the videos.
Maps might be useful if you’re using actual locations in your stories. I’ve used it for San Francisco streets in my forensic stories set in that city. However, just for the heck of it, type in your home address and see what comes up. I did, and there’s a big red A over where my house is, and a little dead-end road around the corner I never knew was there.
News is an excellent way to find information related to what you want to write. For example, you might want to write about one of my favorite singers, Neil Diamond. Type in his name and pick one of the two icons. The Search news will bring up any article from the media while the Search the Web will list those from the Internet. Two choices are always better than one. I learned by reading one article about him that I’m known as a Diamondhead. Well, I have been called worse. (laughing)
Shopping is where I am going to put in a shameless plug. If you type “J. A. Buxton” in the Search Products box, including the surrounding quotation marks, you will get the listing of my published books that are for sale. Try it and see!
Mail is about Gmail, the free Google email many of you might already have. If not, simply follow the steps on that page to create one. I’ve heard you can even make free phone calls now through your Gmail account. I love my MagicJack and do not plan to try this.
More will bring you to a list of other Google products. I will attempt to explain them elsewhere. Some might interest you; others will not. Poke around a bit and see what you discover.
So, there is the basic Google in a nutshell, and I hope it’s been helpful to you. If you only use the default, that’s okay, but why not have fun exploring some of the other ways to use this fantastic research tool?