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COVID-19 Resources

Google Search Strategies for Data

You'll want to start your search by breaking down your research question/idea into its core components. In this case, since you're looking for data on the coronavirus, data and coronavirus will be your two core concepts.

Now that you have them, you can combine them using the Boolean operator AND. AND ensures that any result you get will contain information on both data and the coronavirus. Remember to capitalize the word AND so that Google will register it as a Boolean AND and not just the word and.

Now you have:

  • coronavirus AND data

From here, you can start getting more complex by adding synonyms to your two core concepts: coronavirus and data.

Coronavirus has many names, both in the scientific community and the general public, so you may have to search in scientific literature, the news, and other sources to get all variations of the virus name. Note that there are even many types of coronavirus, so you have to be specific about searching for "coronavirus 2019," or you might end up with data regarding SARS or MERS, two other types of coronavirus. 

Similarly, data can refer to a lot of different things depending on the context where it's being used. To further develop this core concept, you'll want to think more about what types of data you're looking for (e.g. case counts, death counts, infection trends, molecular structures, etc.) and how it's presented (e.g. statistics, maps, dashboards, etc.). Again, you may have to search around a bit to identify what people and organizations are calling their data to get the right terms to search for it.

With this information in mind, you can now refine your search string. Remember to put phrases in quotes ("") so that Google knows to search for those terms as a unit as opposed to two or more words that can be located anywhere on the page relative to one another:

  • "coronavirus 2019" AND (data OR statistics)
  • (COVID-19 OR "novel coronavirus") AND data
  • ("coronavirus 2019" OR COVID-19 OR "novel coronavirus" OR SARS-CoV-2) AND (data OR statistics) 

Most databases already have filters set up for you to use when searching, but Google and other search engines tend to be more tricky to narrow down. However, there are some ways that you can narrow your results in Google.

Results by Location

You can narrow results by location in one of two ways:

  1. Insert the name of the place you're looking for as one of the concepts of your search. For example: 
    • [Insert country/state/county/etc. name here] AND "coronavirus 2019" AND (data OR statistics)
    • [Insert country/state/county/etc. name here] AND (COVID-19 OR "novel coronavirus" AND SARS-CoV-2) AND (data OR statistics)
  2. Use an ISO Alpha-2 country code to limit specifically by country. For example, if you wanted to limit your results to Italian websites, you could type: 
    • "coronavirus 2019" AND (data OR statistics) site:.it

Results by Filetype

If you're looking for data and happen to know the kind of file it tends to live in, you can use the filetype operator (filetype:[Insert filetype abbreviation here]) to narrow your results to files of that particular type that have your keywords in their names. For example, if you wanted to search for Excel files, you could type:

  • coronavirus AND 2019 filetype:.xlsx

Note that you may to test adding and removing terms from your search string to see what gets the best results because people have many different ways of naming files.

Results by Site 

Not all sites on the web are equal, especially in terms of scientific research information. If you want to look for information on specific type of website, you can use the site operator (site:[Insert domain name extension here]) to do so. For example, if you wanted to limit your results to government websites, you could type:

  • COVID-19 AND (data OR statistics) site:.gov

If you're looking for data from a specific site, you can also use the site operator to limit your results to that particular website. For example, if you wanted to limit your results to the CDC's website, you could type: 

  • covid AND data site:cdc.gov

Data by Geographic Region

Other Data