Many thanks to the staff at Leuven’s law library for writing up six extremely useful Google ‘hacks’ for legal research, which I am pleased to post as a guest blog.
As law librarians of KU Leuven, we help students and professionals with their research on a daily basis. A big part of research is – of course – Google, but for some topics and broad searches, Google will come up with 2 million relevant results, making it hard to see the forest for the trees. These six hacks will help you Google more efficiently and find what you’re looking for quicker.
The most commonly known hack – but also one of the most useful ones to alleviate research frustration – is the ‘search within a site’ hack. By typing site:[the website you want to search in] before or after your keywords, you will only get results from within that particular site. This is especially useful for websites with limited or difficult native search tools.
As for our second hack, we would like to remind you of the wildcard: *. Using the asterisk to find missing words is useful if you would like to look up a quote but do not remember the exact wording. The wildcard has another great use: you can easily include words in two different spellings in your search results by searching, for example, organi*ations.
Another way to look up quotes, this time if you do have the exact wording and are trying to find out the source, is by putting your words between quotation marks. This hack will make sure you only get results that quote the exact phrase you’re searching.
Our fourth Google hack is one to help you filter out particular words. By using the – or hyphen symbol directly in front of said word, you will get results that do not include it. The hyphen symbol is essentially the same as the Boolean “NOT”.
Let’s say you know a specific file is available online, but your basic keyword search does not turn it up? To solve this problem, use our fifth hack: the filtype:[filetype you’re looking for, eg. doc] string in combination with your keywords.
Last but not least, our final hack will make it easier to search for different aspects of law from a specific country. By using the site:[country code] string, you only turn up results with URL’s that have the specific country code you are looking for as a domain extension. This works, for example, to help you search more efficiently for fields of law in the Netherlands vs Belgium.
These six hacks are easy tricks to level up your research skills and make sure you do not spend as much time combing through pages of Google results. There is definitely more where this came from! For specific questions, involving Google or not, the librarians at the KU Leuven Libraries Law are always at your service.
(These hacks were originally posted in the context of a “Google hacks week” on the KU Leuven Libraries Law’s different social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.)