I‘m adding a few letters after my name…GPS. No, not THAT GPS – Google Power Searcher! Did you know Google has not one, but two online Power Searching courses? I missed the first one, but found the materials here and am making my way through the course on my own. Much like other online courses, Power Searching includes a series of video lectures and exercises that offer the opportunity to apply and test your skills. 

I’m a daily Googler and find it invaluable for evaluation work. In addition to any evaluation-related search you might imagine (i.e. examples of needs assessments, understanding outcomes vs. impacts, how to analyze rank order survey data) I often use Google Scholar for literature searches. I also collect resources to inform my graduate Program Evaluation Methods course, as well as to inform projects at my school district. I Google to explore what others are saying about about evaluation research in blogs, look for information on a particular program, try to gain a better understanding of the multitude of definitions for evaluation-related terms, or examine a variety of perspectives on conducting evaluation in different contexts.

DID YOU KNOW you can filter Google image results by color? Sure, you may know that, and it’s fabulous for finding a great photograph, but check out this example from the course: “You want statistics on college loans. If you search using [college loans statistics],” click ‘Images’ and filter results by color by clicking on the white box. “Many charts, tables, and graphs have white backgrounds, so filtering for white images helps you find them faster.”

DID YOU KNOW you can restrict searches to certain sites or file types, or use a query containing WHOIS to identify the owner of a particular website? For example, I sometimes look at syllabi from other Program Evaluation Methods courses to get a sense of readings and assignments used elsewhere. If I Google “program evaluation syllabus”, it returns over 1.9 million results, but if I add “site:.edu” to my search phrase, my results are narrowed to 198,000. If I just want to see something from Claremont Graduate University for example, I add site:cgu.edu and my results are filtered even further. I’ve now separated the wheat from the chaff, and save time by focusing my search effort to return just what I’m after.

Image credit: jamescastle via Flickr

Image credit: jamescastle via Flickr

If you’re an advanced Googler (or quick learner!) and just want the “Cliff’s Notes” style version of the course, they are available here. It’s a great brief reference guide of Google tips and tricks covered in the course, and also includes some pretty interesting links including Daniel M. Russell’s (the Power Searching instructor) blog SearchReSearchA blog about search, search skills, teaching search, learning how to search, learning how to use Google effectively, learning how to do research. It also covers a good deal of sensemaking and information foraging.

Google’s Advanced Power Searching Course starts on January 23.

Are YOU a GPS? What’s your favorite Google search tip, trick or strategy?