Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Search the Web Within Your Google Documents

This afternoon I discovered a new feature in Google Documents (now a part of Google Drive) that could prove to be handy for students to use while writing research papers. Google Docs now has a search function built-in. This feature allows users to search the web without having to leave the document they're viewing. To access the new feature open the "tools" menu then select "research" while you have a document open. The search box will appear on the righthand side of your screen. See my screenshots below for directions.

Once you have opened the search sidebar there are some great features to take advantage of. If you find a web result that you want to use in your writing, click on the "insert link" and "cite" buttons to have that link included in your document. Google Docs will automatically insert a footnote citation for that link. The same concept is applied to image searches. When you find an image that you want to use in your document, drag it into place and Google Docs will automatically include a citation for you. The only problem with the image search is that I couldn't tell if the images were Creative Commons licensed or not without going to the actual source in a new tab. Finally, there is a quotation search function that allows you search for famous quotes to include in your writing. Again the automatic citation function kicks-in if you find a quote that you want to you use.

Applications for Education
The new search-within-documents option could be useful for students who need to quickly double-check something that they are citing in a research paper. Students who are trying to include a quote that they've heard can take advantage of the "quote search" option that is included in the Google Docs search option.

The new search function doesn't appear to be available to Google Apps users (Google Apps for Edu, Google Apps for Business) yet so you'll have to be in a personal Google account to see the new feature.

To learn more about Google Documents and Google Drive, download my free 57 page guide to Google Drive and Docs for Teachers.