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How to find the perfect dataset (or anything else!) with Google

Regular Contributor
Posts: 245

How to find the perfect dataset (or anything else!) with Google

One of the biggest challenges I have in working with Open Data is frequently finding the dataset.  I have been playing around with Google Search Operators for some time and think I have a list of useful tips / tricks.  These don’t just apply to open data, but anything that you’re looking for.  I’m going to use a data set as my example here though.


So I remember seeing something on Twitter about a data set released by the City of Toronto about parking tickets; Google can search the hashtags used by various social media enabling you to track down that elusive tweet.






The next example combines two tricks; using a dash before a word or site address excludes that from your search (for example, I often use –Matlab –SPSS  as I don’t want pages with those programs referenced).  The other is putting a phrase into quotes searches for that phrase specifically; “SAS Visual Analytics” will return only those results with exactly that pharse.





In the above I’ve excluded “Green P Parking” (a Toronto parking authority) and so my results are more focussed to what I want.


Using site: is extremely useful if you’re looking for something on a specific website; although already has a Google search function, using it here is a good example:





(This one actually surprised me, I didn’t actually think I’d get anything and I'd have to use another example!)


This next one is fairly obvious to most SAS users, but I often forget this one.  Using an * allows for a wildcard, either for one or multiple characters.






My results now include “Park”, “parks”, “parking”, etc. 


Using related: allows you to search for a similar site to the one you provide; in this case, I get other cities in Canada that have websites.





Another obvious one (images not provided) is OR – you can use it in a situation as simple as marathon or run, or more complex ones such as “Toronto city parking” OR “Edmonton city parking” open data – which would search for open data from both Edmonton and Toronto.


The final one, which I use probably most often, is filetype: and this does exactly that – will return only the results in the type of file you want.  I use this if I’m looking for documentation (PDF), presentations (PPT or PPTX), datasets (CSV, XLSX) or Google Earth overlays (KML). 


Here’s my final example, showing CSV results for Toronto parking:






When using the site: related: or filetype: note there are no spaces between the search and the keyword.  Putting a space will not work, and will cause you confusion and probably stress!


What are your favourite Google Search tips / tricks?  I’m curious to see how you find that perfect website quickly and efficiently!


Until next time!


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Super User
Posts: 11,134

Re: How to find the perfect dataset (or anything else!) with Google

My Google-fu is either very weak , there are some "options" I can't get set or Google just doesn't like me.


My experience with searching for exact phrases is that I get any part matching returned, often one of 4 or 5 words, with a "helpful" little text with a line through the words excluded.


It does seem as though almost any non-alphanumeric often gets treated a wildcard (for me). Searches like "1/2400" will match "1 2400" which is pretty frustrating when searching for a part or model number that has / and starts matching phone numbers ...

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