One of the options in Google’s Advanced Search menu is to exclude specific words from search results. At first, excluding words from search results might seem counterintuitive to learning as much as possible about a chosen research topic. After all, reading extensively about a topic is the best way to learn about it. However, there comes a point in the research process that we realize there are certain terms or names that are no longer germane to our research but still frequently appear when researching our chosen topic.
Researching Harry Lyon’s car provides an instructive example of the benefit of excluding words from Google search results. The prompt for that challenge is,
Everyone knows that Hannibal Hamlin (Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President) lived on Paris Hill in Maine. What you might not know is that Paris Hill was the home of another person who participated in a notable first.
The prompt itself tells us that we can probably eliminate mentions of Hannibal Hamlin from our search results. However, we don’t know that for sure until we’ve established that it was Harry Lyon we were looking for. Once we’ve done that, removing Hannibal Hamlin from our search results can narrow our search. However, the words that will turn out to be the most useful to eliminate are “Founders Day” and “Bob Bahre.”
Bob Bahre was a wealthy businessman who purchased the Hannibal Hamlin estate on Paris Hill in the early 1970s. Bahre was also a collector of expensive antique cars, many of which are pre-World War II vintage. Every year for the last 42 years Bahre’s family opened the collection to public viewing as part of a fundraiser for the local library. That fundraiser is known as Founders Day.
Google searches that mention “cars” and “Paris Hill” return plenty of articles about Founders Day, Bob Bahre, and his car collection. So when trying to determine what kind of car Harry Lyon was sitting in in this picture, “Bob Bahre” and “Founders Day” may seem relevant at first, but you’ll quickly find that it’s actually not helpful to find articles about Bahre, his car collection, or Founders Day.