How to Find What You Really Want on Google

google hacks

Use Google to narrow your search from 3.8 million results to a manageable number.

Fourteen years ago, when we shared Pedro’s cancer diagnosis with our church family, the advice flowed in like the tide. “Carrot juice enemas!” the sweet church lady patted my arm and clung to it at the same time. “If you’ll just buy organic carrots and juice them, you’ll be able to administer an enema and after a few weeks, your dear husband will be completely cured.”

I need to get out of here before I scream! I thought to myself as I lifted the church lady’s patting hand and held it gently. “Thank you for your suggestion,” I said, and gave a (hopefully) genuine smile. “I need to get home now.”

If one more person told me how to cure Pedro with garlic, juicing, enemas or shark cartilage, I might just pass out from frustration. It seemed like a cancer diagnosis brought out the homeopathic doctor and cancer expert in everyone. The minute I reached the haven of home, I lunged toward my computer and quickly opened my web browser to do a Google search for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Over four million results popped up, page after endless page of confusing information—some of it even suggested carrot juice enemas and juicing! I would never be able to read it all, understand it all and help Pedro come up with the best treatment plan for him.

And then I realized—I’d fallen prey to lazy researching.  I always warned my English students about lazy reseraching when teaching them how to write research papers.

4 hacks for finding what you really want on Google. #caregiver Click To Tweet

I quickly found my cheat sheet and started to practice what I teach.

  1. Use Google as a dictionary. I didn’t understand some of the terms that the doctor had used during the appointment. When he said ‘protocol’ I thought he meant rules of order for meeting royalty. In the search box on, I entered: define protocol. This took me to a results page that showed how to pronounce the word as well as a brief definition (which had to do with meeting royalty) Next, I typed in define medical protocol. I learned that a ‘medical protocol’ is the standard guideline for treatment.
  2. Use advanced Google searches. Next, I wanted a good definition of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma—understanding what might cause it would also be nice. I went to the advanced search engine  and limited my search to sites ending with .gov that had information from the past year. Why waste time reading old information? I found a great website that offered diagrams, photos and used a vocabulary I could relate to. The website defined difficult words and terms, and I came away with a much better understanding of what kind of battle Pedro would have to fight.
  3. Limit searches the quick way. I wanted to know whether or not someone had discovered an experimental drug or treatment that might be helpful. This time, I limited the search to sites ending in .edu. I discovered that I could type a few simple things into the search box and limit the search without having to go to the advanced search page. For example, if I wanted to search organizations that offered information, I would type in Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatment protocol The magic limiter is the “” (colon dot org) at the end of the search. If you want to exclude any commercial sites, add to the end of the search (minus site colon dot com) or
  4. Use quotation marks around the exact words you’re searching for helps you limit the results to exact matches. I hadn’t ruled out using homeopathic remedies, so I knew that I should search alternative medicines as well.

google hacksIn the end, all of my searching helped me to ask more intelligent questions the next time we visited the doctor and to make an informed decision about treatment once the doctors discovered how far advanced the disease was (called ‘staging’). Pedro had Stage IV (they found evidence of cancer in all four quadrants of his body and evidence that it had attacked major organs) cancer—and time was critical.

What sources or search tips have you discovered to help you learn about your loved one’s diagnosis and understand the treatment options?