Finding Directories of Information

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Use Google to find directories, link lists, and other collections of information. link

Sometimes you're more interested in large information collections than scouring for specific bits and bobs. Using Google, there are a couple of different ways of finding directories, link lists [Tip #44], and other information collections. The first way makes use of Google's full-word wildcards [Tip #13] and the intitle: [Section 1.5] syntax. The second is judicious use of particular keywords.

Title Tags and Wildcards

Pick something you'd like to find collections of information about. We'll use "trees" as our example. The first thing we'll look for is any page with the words "directory" and "trees" in its title. In fact, we'll build in a little buffering for words that might appear between the two using a couple of full-word wildcards [Tip #13] (* characters). The resultant query looks something like this:


intitle:"directory * * trees"

This query will find "directories of evergreen trees," "South African trees," and of course "directories containing simply trees."

What if you wanted to take things up a notch, taxonomically speaking, and find directories of botanical information? You'd use a combination of intitle: and keywords like so:

botany intitle:"directory of"

And you'd get over 6,600 results. Changing the tenor of the information might be a matter of restricting results to those coming from academic institutions. Appending an "edu" site specification brings you to:

botany intitle:"directory of" site:edu 

This gets you around 120 results, a mixture of resource directories and, unsurprisingly, directories of university professors.

Mixing these syntaxes works rather well when you're searching for something that might also be an offline print resource. For example:

cars intitle:"encyclopedia of"

This query pulls in results from Amazon and other sites selling car encyclopedias. Filter out some of the more obvious tutorial finds by tweaking the query slightly:

cars intitle:"encyclopedia of" -site:amazon.com
-inurl:tutorial -inurl:products

The query specifies that search results should not come from Amazon.com, should not have the word "tutorial" in the URL, or the word "products," which eliminates a fair amount of online stores. Play with this query by changing the word "cars" to whatever you'd like for some interesting finds.

(Of course there are lots of sites selling tutorials online, but when it comes to injecting "noise" into results when you're trying to find online resources, research-oriented information, Amazon is the biggest offender. If you're actually looking for tutorials, try +site:amazon.com instead.)

If mixing syntaxes doesn't do the trick for the resources you want, there are some clever keyword combinations that might just do the trick.

Finding Searchable Subject Indexes with Google

There are a few major searchable subject indexes and miriad minor ones that deal with a particular topic or idea. You can find the smaller subject indexes by customizing a few generic searches. "what's new" "what's cool" directory, while gleaning a a few false results, is a great way of finding searchable subject indexes. directory "gossamer threads" new is an interesting one. Gossamer Threads is the creator of a popular link directory program. This is a good way to find searchable subject indexes without too many false hits. directory "what's new" categories cool doesn't work particularly well, because the word "directory" is not a very reliable search term; but you will pull in some things with this query that you might otherwise miss.

Let's put a few of these into practice:

"what's new" "what's cool" directory phylum
"what's new" "what's cool" directory carburetor
"what's new" "what's cool" directory "investigative journalism"
"what's new" directory categories gardening 
directory "gossamer threads" new sailboats directory "what's new" categories cool "basset hounds"

The real trick is to use a more general word, but make it unique enough that it applies mostly to your topic and not to many other topics.

Take acupuncture, for instance. Start narrowing it down by topic: what kind of acupuncture? For people or animals? If for people, what kind of conditions are being treated? If for animals, what kind of animals? Maybe you should be searching for "cat acupuncture" or maybe you should be searching for acupuncture arthritis. If this first round doesn't narrow down search results enough for you, keep going. Are you looking for education or treatment? You can skew results one way or the other by using the site: syntax. So maybe you want "cat acupuncture" site:com or arthritis acupuncture site:edu. Just by taking a few steps to narrow things down, you can get a reasonable number of search results focused around your topic.