I found this site on "Power Searching with Google". It describes how to get the most out of a google search. For 90% of my searching, a quick & dirty search (which is what I usually do) should be fine. But that other 10% probably represents half of the time I spend trying to find things. My usual strategy is to keep banging away & try new search terms. The course recommends doing exactly that, but here are a few tips that I think will save a LOT of time for more specific searches:
- When searching for images, use the "search tools" and choose a color. Black & white, gray, white or black in particular are useful for finding diagrams.
- Google scholar is great for finding authoritative search results.
- I think that it is similar to searching with site:edu, plus some other academic sources.
- Note the legal search results - court opinions are much clearer that I would have believed (and a lot more wordy).
- Site: is useful if you want to restrict to a particular site or subset of sites.
- Restricting to site:gov would only give you official US government sites. (You can use go.uk, go.fr, etc. to search other country govt sites).
- Restricting site:edu will only give you US educational institutions. Useful if you want a more collegiate take on the subject.
- Filetype: can be useful if you want just a .csv or .klm (Google Earth) or a particular format.
- filetype:pdf might be worthwhile if you want a document that covers the topic.
- Combining site:edu filetype:pdf would (I think) restrict your search to something like "Academic papers on this subject", as opposed to abstracts or simple web pages.
- This page has a pretty good summary of the search features, most of which are automatic.
You can get as much (or more) out of Google search simply by exploring the interface and trying everything that they have available. They have put a lot of thought and effort into it.