Monday, June 23, 2008

Super Site-Specific Searches with Google

My apologies for not posting last week! If you read the Bestiaria Latina blog round-ups, you know that I've been working on harvesting all the Latin Aesopic fables I could find at Google Books and other online sources... finally telling myself to stop when I reached 4000 fables! You can see the results of those efforts at the Latin Aesopus wiki. I'm going to try to get back to my regular blogging schedule this week! :-)

As a result of last week's project, I've been doing a lot of online searching, so I thought I would share a simple tip about Google searches: even if a site does not offer a search engine of its own, you can make your own site-specific Google search!

Site-specific search. Add the address of the site to your Google search, prefaced by the command site:

For example, there's a great repository of Latin texts at The Latin Library online here:

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com

You can actually ignore the www at the beginning of the address, and just consider it to be: thelatinlibrary.com. So, just add this command to any Google search to limit the search to this site only. Here's a search for the Latin word "mustela" (weasel) at the site:

mustela site:thelatinlibrary.com

Search a specific subdirectory. Depending on how the site is structured, you can even do some further refinements. For example, if you look at this address for a text by Cicero at this website, you can see just where all the Cicero files are located:

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/cicero/brut.shtml

The website has a subdirectory, cicero, where the files are kept. When you decipher a web address, you can think of the subdirectories, separated by the forward slash sign, as being like folders on your computer. So within the website named thelatinlibrary.com, there is a folder called cicero, and inside that folder are all the individual files, such as this file named brut.shtml.

So, if I want to search for the word "mustela" in just the Cicero files at this site, I add this to my search:

mustela site:thelatinlibrary.com/cicero

Isn't that cool? Not all websites are organized with such an easy-to-understand structure, but if one of the sites you want to search has clearly labeled subdirectories, you can easily create specialized searches for those directories.

Search a specific sub-subdirectory. Another site I rely on heavily is the Sacred Texts website, which is also very congenial for searching. Let's say I want to look for "weasel" at that site:

weasel site:sacred-texts.com

I can then limit my search to weasels in Celtic folklore like this, since I know where all the Celtic files are at the site, inside the "celt" subdirectory, which is contained within the "neu" subdirectory. I think that stands for Northern Europe, although luckily it doesn't matter if I understand the names of the subdirectories - I just have to recognize them from the address:

weasel site:sacred-texts.com/neu/celt

It really pays to study the webpage addresses at the sites you use most frequently. The more you can understand about the structure of the website, the better you can create your site-specific Google searches!


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