Google Apps for Students
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Google Apps for Students

with Aaron Quigley

Video: Student Boolean basics

As students you have a lot on your plate.

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Watch the Online Video Course Google Apps for Students
1h 13m Beginner Jan 03, 2014

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Discover how to use Google Apps to become more productive in class and after school. In this course, author and educator Aaron Quigley shows students how to work with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive to communicate and collaborate with classmates, become more organized, and save time. Learn how to manage school and personal email, back up your assignments, create a class website, and connect with others on Google+. Teachers can also use this course to get tips to help their students succeed inside and outside the classroom.

Topics include:
  • Searching for scholarly articles on Google
  • Switching between school and personal Gmail
  • Sending large file attachments
  • Composing papers in Google Docs
  • Creating a class calendar
  • Setting up your student profile on Google+
  • Using Google Hangout
Education + Elearning
Apps for Education
Aaron Quigley

Student Boolean basics

As students you have a lot on your plate. You have a variety of classes that you're working through and each class has its own requirements and its own deadlines. Learning how to save time as a student can help make sure that you give the adequate time to your studies, as well as have a balanced life. One way that you can do that is to reduce the amount of searching through search results. As you look for things on Google, especially Google Scholar, often you'll get results back that have nothing to do with the paper that your'e writing or the group project that you're working on. While searching online, you can use something known as Boolean strings to help make sure that the results you get back are exactly what you're looking for.

Now a Boolean string is simply adding notation into your search string. For example, if I wanted to look for blue eyes and heredity, then Google's going to go through and look for any article that has the word blue, has the word eyes and has the word heredity. The combination of those three words with the greatest percentages is going to win and that's the article that Google's going to return to me. Now let's say that I'm writing a paper about the probability that someone is going to have blue eyes in their genes. If I just search for these three words the first article that comes back is actually about blue eyes and the deafness in domestic cats.

This article has absolutely nothing to do with my paper. So the question becomes, how can better search inside of Google Scholar? Well, let's go ahead and take a look at how we can use Boolean to refine this search. To help us out I've created the Boolean Search Strings Cheat Sheet. You'll find it in chapter one of the exercise files. Here I've gone through and I've given you the notations you can use inside of a search field as well as the result it's going to have, or the description of what'll happen if you use those particular notations. So for example, placing the word and or plus-sign in between two sets of text is going to tell Google to look for only articles that contain both of those words.

Not just an article that has a high concentration of one or the other word. Using words such as or, will allow you to distinguish between different words. For example, if I'm trying to find a coffee shop to go study at, well a cafe will probably work as well. So I could search Google for coffee, and then say shops, or cafes. That way my search results come back with a variety of options. I can also use a minus sign, or the words and not. To tell Google that I don't want a certain word included in a search string. For example if I'm writing about the politics of science, I probably don't want to write about political science, because those are two different areas of study.

So I could search for science and politics looking for papers that contain both those words but not the expression political science, that way I'll get articles back that are exactly what I am looking for. And I don't have to wade through a bunch of articles that aren't about the topic I'm writing. In addition to that, as I scroll down, there's some notations that I can add to individual words, such as an asterisk is going to look for all variations that could be added to that word. I'm really talking about prefixes and suffixes here. For example, if I search for the word land and then an asterisk, my search results is going to include all versions of the word land.

Including landed, landing, lander, and even lance. On the flip side, if I put an asterisk at the front of the word, it'll look for everything that has that particular stem with a variety of prefixes. So if I search for biotic with an asterisk, it'll also include things such as a biotic in the search results. And the last thing I'm going to point out is that we can use parenthesis to create combinations of Boolean strings. So here I've created a group of parenthesis, such as genetics and heredity, meaning I want Google to look for articles that have the word genetics and the word heredity in it, but I don't want articles that have the word phenotype or genotype.

That way Google's going to give me exactly what I'm looking for in my string. So let's go ahead and head back to Google. Now to refine the search, we're going to go ahead and add some Boolean notation to help us get to exactly what we want. First off, I know that I'm looking for blue eyes specifically, because of that I can do a string literal but putting parenthesis around this, so now Google's going to treat blue eyes as a single entity, it's only going to look for articles where they happen to be directly next to each other in that order. In addition to this, I want this focused on humans, so what I'm going to do is to put a minus sign, and write the word animals.

So now that I've added some Boolean notation, I'm telling Google to look for articles that have blue eyes and heredity, but I don't want the word animals anywhere in the article. Let's go ahead and search. Okay, and notice right away that that first article about the cats is completely gone. I now have articles that are more appropriate to my particular paper, and I have fewer options to sort through which will ultimately save me time.

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