Category Archives: Search engines

Research Tools: Creating Your Own Google Custom Search Engine

As valuable as individual search engines are, whether Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo, they do have their limitations. Some of these include getting inundated with too many results, which can be somewhat alleviated by knowing how to structure your search.

You can modify your search terms to narrow your search. For instance, when looking for material on pioneering film director D.W. Griffith and film editing, I could just enter his name in Google and get “about 466,000 results.” Adding the term “parallel editing,” a film editing technique associated with Griffith, gets me “about 4,200 results.” This is more to the point and a lot less intimidating. However, there is an even better method if you’re willing to put in some time and effort by building your own Google Custom Search Engine.

Like a number of instructors, I created my own Custom Search Engine to help students in my film, television, animation, motion graphics and visual effects classes with their research: “Cinema Studies 101 Search Engine: A Search Engine for the Moving Image Arts.” Though I’m retired from full-time teaching, I still maintain it for my own use and for readers of my blog. I designed it to enable researchers to find articles that would be suitable for use in academic papers of all kinds, from term papers to PhD dissertations; needless to say, it does not include Wikipedia. You can check out my listing of sites searched to give you some idea of what can be done. But there is nothing that says you can’t construct one to fit your individual needs.

I have found that in using the free Google Custom Search Engine, there are some limitations. The main one is that it limits you to 100 search results. This is balanced, however, by the quality of the results. As such, I have usually found it more useful than a standard Google search.

Nancy Minicozzi’s YouTube video embedded above is a good introduction to how to do your own Google Custom Search Engine. However, it has been my experience that you do not necessarily need your own website or blog to make use of it; for instance, I first tested mine out by putting the code on my desktop and launching it with a browser. (If you do plan on using one in a Google Site, then check out Minicozzi’s comments here.)