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Gerstein Science Information Centre


Recommended resources for research related to entrepreneurship, startups and commercialization: from science and technology literature to market research and patents.

Web Research Tips

For more efficient web searching using a search engine like Google, here are some quick tips. Scroll down to learn more.

1. Plan your search strategy including your key search terms. decorative image of a wheel.

2. Use an advanced search tool like Google Advanced Search.

3. Use search operators (full Google operators list here).

4. Take notes and iterate, iterate, iterate based on what you find.

Identify search terms

Brainstorm keywords

  1. What keywords can be found in the problem statement? Identify what is our company about and what terminology can been pulled out from the problem statement
  2. What terminology is used by the industries, companies, products, technologies?: Use Google to search for company websites and more to get started (even Wikipedia - but be sure to drill down and find the original source so you can confirm that the information is accurate) 
  3. What terms are used by researchers?: Search article databases and look at their keywords / subject heading / controlled vocabulary topics
  4. What are similar terms?: Think of synonyms, jargon, etc. These will be your fallbacks when your searches come up empty.
  5. Start with your top five: select the terms that best summarize the topic and start with those. You can iterate as you go along.

Tip: Keep a list of all the terms you find. It's a good idea to get into the practice of keeping research notes to track and evolve your search as you go along.

Customize your search question

How does Google work?

Simply put, Google works by indexing full text for keywords and ranking results. Its proprietary search engine lists the pages that contain the same keywords that were in the user's search term. Google selects search results by prioritizing webpages with relevant page titles and headers, as well as frequency of clicks on webpages. Source: How Google Search Works

Note: The focus is on quantity, but remember, the largest number of results doesn’t guarantee the most relevant search results.

Note: Google can't index anything behind a firewall. So proprietary content such as market research or subscription journals won't be found in a Google web search. 

Building an effective search

Combine search terms (or keywords) rather than using questions: The question format sometimes works for Google, but it can pull in too many results. Instead, focus on building a search using the following tips.

A screenshot that shows an example of advance search and search operators

Using the Advanced Search & search operators in Google

Google Advanced Search:
  1. Combine keywords with connectors
    • OR: pull results that include either word [Regulations OR laws OR compliance]
    • NOT / - (For Google use the minus symbol - in front of the term): ignore results with that word [driving  -school]
  2. Use quotation marks ( " " ) to limit search to specific words or phrases
    • Use around a phrase or concept of two or more words e.g. ["trucking industry", "monitor drowsy driving"]
    • Allows you to avoid similar terms or derived words and target the exact wording you need
    • Be aware that it can mean that you miss out related terms that the search function might identify so you might want to submit search with and without quotation marks 
  3. Search a specific website rather than the entire Internet using site:
    • ​​Get results from certain sites or domains e.g. [compliance]
    • To get results from multiple sites or domains, combine with OR e.g. ["monitoring technology" OR]
  4. Search for specific types of websites
    • ​Use different domains to narrow down your search to different types of content sources e.g. [compliance OR]
    • (Canada gov), .gov (Government), .edu (Educational organization), .org (Non-profit organization)  
  5. Search for terms in location on webpage (intitle:)
    • Use intitle:term to restrict search results to documents containing term in the title.
    • For example, e.g. [trucking intitle:compliance] will return documents that mention the word “compliance” in their titles, and mention the word “trucking” anywhere in the document (title or not).
  6. Search for particular types of documents (filetype:)
    • Specify the file type that your require (.xlsx, .pptx, etc.) and be sure that this is no space between colon and file type, e.g. [filetype:pdf, OR filetype:doc]
  7. Search Social Media: Put an at-sign (@) in front of a word to search social media e.g. [“public health” @twitter]

More Google advanced search operators

Filter your results

  1. Click on "Tools" and click on "Any Times" to open drop down menu options (e.g. past year, custom range)

Other search tips

  1. What kind of information can you pull from the resources to continue your research? 
    • ​​​​Look for academic articles, companies websites (potential competitors), professional associations, data and statistics, etc. Also look for gaps or areas that your company could target. 
  2. What kind of information are you going to need?
    • You will need to use particular types of resources for different kinds of information (e.g., demographics, company info, etc.) 
  3. Critically evaluate your results.
    • Is it current? Is it accurate? Is it relevant? Is it original?