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Digital thinking tools for better decision making
Digital thinking tools for better decision making

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1 Be a super-Googler

Today, anyone looking for information on the internet will probably start with a search engine often Google search. Google currently processes about 40,000 search requests a second, which amounts to over 1,200,000,000,000 a year [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Given that the population of the world is about 7,600,000,000, you can calculate that the average per person is

1,200,000,000,000 division 7,600,000,000

which works out to about 160 searches per person per year.

Although it has several smaller rivals, and is blocked or banned in some countries, Google is dominant among search engines.

In this section you will mainly be learning ways to make your Google searches more efficient. But some of the same ideas may work with other search engines too.

The familiar way to use Google is just to enter one or more words (query terms) and submit the search (Figure 2).

The Google search box.
Figure 2 Google search

However, just entering a simple keyword can often generate a very large number of results, many of which are not relevant to your current enquiry. So, Google provides a whole series of operators which let you fine-tune your search.

Activity 1 Using Google operators

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

In this activity you will look at examples that explore some of the most useful operators.

Exact phrase

Try searching on: tallest tree in the universe

You will get some hits containing this phrase but also others to do with the oldest/smallest/widest tree/rollercoaster/thing in the world/that every existed/in California, and so on.

Now try searching with: “tallest tree in the universe”

The quote marks make Google look for the exact phrase “tallest tree in the universe”.

Excluding a word

Try searching on: slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Many hits will mention Hamlet, since this is a well-known quote from that play. But perhaps these are not what you are after! You can use the – operator to exclude the word Hamlet. Try searching on

slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -Hamlet

This time, you should find that none of the hits mention Hamlet.


Next, search on: tallest * in the world

This will look for all the tallest things in the world.


Try searching on: lion tiger

This will look for pages including both words. You can search for pages containing either word by using the OR operator. Note that OR must be in uppercase letters. Try searching on lion OR tiger and see the difference.


Try searching on: lion site:gr

The operator restricts the search to a particular internet domain, in this example gr, which is the top level domain for Greece. All of the hits will be pages from sites in the gr domain.

The domain represents academic institutions (universities, libraries, museums, etc.) in the UK. Try searching on: tiger

This time you should get pages about tigers from sites in the domain.


To search for pages from a given year or years, you can use the … operator. Try these searches

electric cars 2017...2017

steam cars 2000…2010

This doesn’t work perfectly because it can also find results that simply mention the specified years, but it is generally useful.

Now have a go at the next Activity where you will combine operators.

Activity 2 Mix and match

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

The operators introduced in Activity 1 can be combined in various ways. Try these searches and then some of your own.

"tiger tiger burning"

pet -dog -cat

"smallest dog in the *"

"swan of *" –shakespeare

"* of *" -university

Warning: playing with these searches can become addictive!

In the next section you will learn about the 'filter bubble'. By tailoring results based on what they know of us search engines may narrow our horizons.