Web Browsing and Google Searches Philip Tagg (Faculté de musique, Université de Montréal, 2007)

 Web browsing problems and solutions Top
The Back button doesn‘t work I can’t find anything on my topic
I only find a load of commercial junk I find millions of pages on my topic
How do I refer to a web page in my written work? Je ne trouve rien en français sur mon sujet

The Back button
won’t work


The Back button
is either greyed out
like this:

or it just won’t work.

1. If your Back button is green, right-click the Back button or left-click the little arrow on its right. Then, from the drop-down display, click the web page to which you want to return.

2. If your Back button is greyed out, you may have several web pages, including popups, open at the same time. Close the web page(s) you don’t need.

3. If you arrived at the offending page during a search, Google produces its own additional navigation bar which may look something like this:

Note that the Back button is greyed out and that the name and URL of the offending page are numbered 2. The page numbered 1 probably sent you to the offending page 2. Click the red button in the Google navigation bar, just to the right of the name of the site you want to leave..

4. Click History at the top of your browser screen and select a web page to which you would like to return.

More information and other solutions here.

Commercial stuff
When I do a search, I get too many commercial results. I don’t want to shop!

1. Use Google Book or Google Scholar.

2. Use the minus sign (  ): see under Refining searches)

Too much!
I get millions of search results and can’t possibly go throught them all.

You need to refine your search.

Top of this page I get too many hits! I get too few hits! I get too much commercial junk!
Google Book Google Scholar Google français Language issues
Google Basics Google Advanced Google Results Page Google Preferences
Du français s.v.p. Advanced Search Searching this site Using the web for written work
Refine your search!
(expanding searches towards the end of section)

Google is currently the most widely used web search engine.

(Google Book & Google Scholar)
Expand your search
Help save billions of megawatts by using Blackle (Google in black) for normal searches

The Google Search box

To reduce the number and increase relevance of results generated by Google, you must refine your searches. Once you’ve devoted 30 minutes to learning how to refine a search you’ll save yourself hundreds of hours and a lot of frustration. (To find out more, check out Google Basics, Google Advanced and Google Preferences).

First work out, as precisely as possible, what you want (and don’t want) to find.
In the examples that follow I'm looking for something musicological, preferably semiotic too, about Bernard Herrmann’s film music. I think I may want to concentrate on the famous shower scene music from Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) but I want to see first what there is about Herrmann in general. I’m going to commit some typical student search errors and correct them step by step. Please note that in what follows, the text typed into the Google Search box is shown in turquoise.
Don’t search just for general concepts.
Entering the single word musicology in the Google search box generated over 2½ million links (2007-01-06)! Entering musicology semiotics produced ‘only’ 92,000 links: less bad but still unusable.
Of course, the reference you want might be on my site somewhere: that'll refinre your search by a factor of several million! Complete instructions about how to use Search on this site can be found here (<— click).
Use inverted commas ("...")
If you search for film music you'll get links to all pages containing either film OR music (392 million hits). If you enter "film music", ‘only’ pages containing the exact expression film music will be listed (‘only’ 1½ million). Both searches are pretty useless, so…
Add more words in the Search box
• Entering "film music" Hermann produced 172,000 results: an improvement on 1½ million but still unusable.
• Entering "film music" "Bernard Hermann" gave 92,000 hits: still far too many.
• Entering "film music" "Bernard Hermann" analysis resulted in 843 hits: still a lot to go through!
• Entering "film music" "Bernard Hermann" analysis musicology: 473 hits: better!
• Entering "film music" "Bernard Hermann" analysis musicology semiotics: 81 hits: OK!
Use the plus sign (+) Top
+ before a word (e.g. +musicology) or expression (e.g. +"film music") means that the word or expression MUST BE INCLUDED in the web pages Google presents in the results it produces (an AND condition). Otherwise Google looks for ANY of the words you entered (an OR condition) even though it starts its results listing with reference to web pages containing the greatest number of your search words. For example:
+"film music" +"Bernard Herrmann" +analysis +musicology +semiotics +Psycho: 18 hits
+"film music" +"Bernard Herrmann" +analysis +musicology +semiotics +Psycho +shower: 3 hits
   (Guess where one of those references is, apart from on this page! Yes, here).
Use uncommon (combinations of) words
It always helps if you can enter an uncommon word or phrase or name. Adding the title of one of Herrmann’s films (Psycho in this case) refines the search by a factor of 3, adding the word shower (assuming interest in the famous shower scene music) by a factor of 9, and the name "Philip Tagg" as well by a factor of 1
# pages listed |
|Entered in Google Search box
"film music" "Bernard Herrmann" analysis semiotics
"film music" "Bernard Herrmann" analysis semiotics Psycho
"film music" "Bernard Herrmann" analysis semiotics Psycho shower
"film music" "Bernard Herrmann" analysis semiotics Psycho shower "Philip Tagg"
Psycho shower music
Psycho shower music semiotics
psycho shower music semiotics analysis
"Psycho shower music"
psycho shower music semiotics analysis Herrmann
psycho shower music semiotic analysis "Bermard Herrmann"
Use the minus sign (-)
- before a word (e.g. -buy) or expression ( -"special offer") tells Google NOT to list web pages containing that word or expression. For example:
# pages listed |
|Entered in Google Search box
Nirvana "Never Mind"
Nirvana "Never Mind" -buy -sell -"for only"
OK, that halves the number of hits listed but it’s still not much good if you want to find serious stuff about the famous Nirvana album from 1991. Try Google Scholar (239 hits) and Google Books (243 hits) instead. Here’s a better example (steps 7-10 in next section). See also Advanced Search.

Using OR (|): expand your search (and then refine it!)
If you don’t know about plus, minus, inverted commas in search expressions, read this first!

I wanted to find out as much as possible about the meaning of the minor-seven-flat-five chord. (Why? Read this!). Since this is a pretty esoteric search topic, I didn’t want to miss any references. The table below charts my search progress. Explanations follow it.

Entered in Google Search box
Line #
"minor seven flat five"
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished"
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" | "accord diminué"
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished' | "m7b5"
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished' | "m7b5" | "m7-5"
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished' | "m7b5" | "m7-5" -guitar -tab
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" | "m7b5" | "m7-5" -guitar -tab +analysis
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" | "m7b5" | "m7-5" -guitar -tab +musicology
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" | "m7b5" | "m7-5" -guitar -tab +semiotics
"minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" | "m7b5" | "m7-5" -guitar -tab +analysis +musicology +semiotics
  1. Entering just "minor seven flat five" only produced 154 hits. I need to find synonyms…
  2. Entering "minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" is the same as entering    
    "minor seven flat five" OR "half diminished"
    — the bar symbol just means OR.
    Now we know that half-diminished is 69 times more common an expression than minor seven flat five. Whoopee!
  3. Adding |"accord diminué" produced another 1,800 results: worth knowing if you read French. This means that there were, when I did the search, nearly 42,000 web pages containing any of the three expressions.
  4. Adding |"m7b5" (= min. 7 flat 5) to the search box swelled the number to 68,900. Whoops!
  5. Adding |"m7-5" (= m7b5) made matters even worse: 207,000 hits! Browsing those links it became clear that amany pages contained the lyrics and chord charts of popular songs. Let's get rid of some…
  6. Adding -guitar -tab eliminated pages containing either of the words guitar or tab: down to 160,000 hits.
  7. Adding +analysis to the end of the search string radically reduced the count to 958.
  8. Replacing +analysis with +musicology brought the number down to 118.
  9. Replacing +musicology with +semiotics brought the number down to 40.
  10. Entering "minor seven flat five" | "half diminished" | "m7b5" | "m7-5" -guitar -tab +analysis +musicology +semiotics brought the number down to 20. Thank you!
    That lengthy search expression literally means: list ANY web page containing ANY one or more of the expressions mentioned but NOT containing either of the words guitar or tab; at the same time the pages listed MUST contain all three of the words analysis.
    s, musicology and semiotics.
Advanced search Top

To the right of the Google search box you’ll see ‘Advanced Search’ — very useful. It may be ‘advanced’ from a programming point of view but you don’t have to be an I.T. geek to use it. Click Advanced search and you see something like this.

Let’s say (again) you want to find everything about the feeling or meaning of the half-diminished chord but wanted to avoid all those links to guitar tab pages of songs. Let’s say you also wanted there to be a music example or two. First, I’d enter semiotic OR semiotics into the first field (‘with all of the words’), then example in field 2 (‘with the exact phrase), then the four ’words’ "minor seven flat five", "half diminished', "m7b5" and "m7-5" into the third field (‘with at least one of the words’). Finally, to avoid the guitar tab pages, I’d put guitar tab into the last field (‘without the words’). The I’d click ‘Google search’. You may find ten or so pages displayed but only two of them deal with the subject you’re actually investigating. That’s perfectly normal and better than nothing at all.

(Language) Preferences / Préférences (de langue)

To the right of the Google search box you’ll see Preferences. Click it to set defaults for language (or level of pornoography) you prefer. This text deals only with Search languages.

On the Preferences page, Google rightly recommend searching for web pages in All languages. Why? Well, if you want information about, say, Rachid Taha (enter "Rachid Taha") and if your search preference is for pages in English only, you've missed the boat: only 23% of all Taha-related sites are in English while 52% are in French. Solution? Set Search language preference to All and learn French!

Still, even with Research language set to All, entering "dance music" produces 15 times more hits then does "musique de danse".

À droite de la boîte de recherche chez Google, vous verrez Préférences. Cliquez là-dessus et cochez quelle[s] langue[s] vous choisissez (et quel niveau de pornographie vous acceptez). Ici on ne parlera que des Langues de recherche.

Sur la page Préférences de Google, on vous conseille, avec raison, de rechercher les pages Web dans Toutes les langues. Pourquoi? Des exemples: seulement 2% des pages Web sur le reggae sont en français. Même Debussy existe sur une page en français 6 fois moins souvent que dans une autre langue, principalement l’anglais.

Il vaut la peine de noter que l’expression de Recherche "dance music" produit 15 fois plus de résultats (toutes les langues) que la phrase "musique de dance". Solution? Choisissez Toutes les langues de recherche et apprenez bien l’anglais!

Google en français (entre autres langues)

Google.ca (Canada) and google.fr (France) are both available in either French or English. Both language versions list the same number of references for the same search. If you choose French as Search language, pages in French are listed first and vice versa if you choose English.

The same principle applies to google.de (deutsch — German titles first if you choose German) , google.it (italiano), google.pt (português), etc. One exception: Google.es (España) offers no English-first listing but does offer that service for Catalan, Galician, Basque and Spanish.

For essential information about Google search language selection, please read the previous section.

Les domaines google.ca (Canada) et google.fr (France) sont disponibles en anglais ou en français. Les deux versions linguistiques génèrent exactement le même nombre de références en réponse à la même recherche. Si vous sélectionnez le français comme Langue de recherche, les pages en français apparaîtront les premières. L’ordre de présentation est renversé si vous sélectionnez l’anglais.

Le même principe s’applique aux domaine google.de (deutsch — les titres en allemand au début de la liste si on choisit cette langue plutôt que l’anglais), google.it (italiano), google.pt (português), etc. Une exception: Google.es (España) n’offre aucune option anglophone. En revanche on peut choisir le catalan, le galicien, le basque et l’espagnol.

Pour des renseignements essentiels sur le choix de langue pour les recherches Google, lisez s.v.p. la section précédente sur cette page.

Google scholar

Google Scholar is useful if you’re doing a university assignment. You’ll avoid all the commercial junk and just get links to academic sites without having to trawl through tons of irrelevant stuff or spend time trying to refine your search. For example, entering semiotic +musicology "film music" generates no more than 150 links — very manageable! Google scholar is at http://scholar.google.com/. Bookmark it!

Google book

Google Book is useful if you need to find a book on a particular subject. In January 2007 I only found 19 book references when I entered semiotic +musicology "film music" (Jan. 2007). That’s probably because Google doesn’t scan all books, especially not those from very minor publishers like the MMMSP! Still, there wer 649 books referring to both reggae and dub (+reggae +dub), so there’s no longer really much excuse for a skimpy bibliography in the case of most university assignments. Google book is at http://books.google.com/. Bookmark it!

Using web pages in written work
Utilisation des pages Web dans votre travail
The internet is an almost inexhaustible source of information you can easily cut and paste into your work. Whatever storage form that information takes (text, image, music notation, recording) it is just as much the result of someone else’s labour (author, edior, composer, arranger, artist, etc.) as information stored in traditional forms (books, periodicals, discs, etc.). Internet plagiarism is regarded with the same severity as is conventional plagiarism. Before quoting or summarising what you find on line, you must read section 2.7 of this document, especially subsection 2.7.1. L'internet est une ressource presque inpuisable d'information que l'on peut facilement couper et coller dans son travail. Quelle que soit la forme de cette information (texte, image, notation musicale, enregistrement), elle est autant le résultat du travail d'autrui (auteur, rédacteur, compositeur, arrangeur, artiste, etc.) que l'information emmagasinée sur des supports traditionnels (livre, journal, disque, etc.). Plagier de l'internet est donc aussi mal vu que le plagiat conventionnel. Avant de citer ou de résumer ce que vous trouvez en ligne, il est essentiel que vous lisiez ce texte, en particulier cette partie.

When you quote or summarise from the web in your own work, you must make a note of each page’s:

  • title,
  • URL (https://www…),
  • the date you accessed the page.

This page, for example, accessed on 15 July 2007, would appear in your bibliography as follows:

Tagg, Philip. ‘Web browsing and Google searches’.   www.tagg.org/zmisc/WebSrch.htm (2007-07-15).

This information should be included in your bibliography. For more on this topic, see this document, §§ 11.4.2 and 12.2.

Lorsque vous citez ou que vous résumez dans votre travail le contenu d’une page Web, il faut noter, pour chaque page :

  • le titre,
  • l’URL (https://www…),
  • la date de votre accès à la page.

Par exemple, cette page, accédée le 15 juillet 2007, devrait apparaître dans votre bibliographie comme ceci:

Tagg, Philip. ‘Web browsing and Google searches’. www.tagg.org/zmisc/WebSrch.htm (2007-07-15).

Ces informations doivent apparaître dans votre bibliographie. Pour en savoir plus, consultez ce document (en anglais), §§ 11.4.2 et 12.2.