The Joy of Search

How to be a great online searcher, demonstrated with step-by-step searches for answers to a series of intriguing questions (for example, “Is that plant poisonous?”).

We all know how to look up something online by typing words into a search engine. We do this so often that we have made the most famous search engine a verb: we Google it—“Japan population” or “Nobel Peace Prize” or “poison ivy” or whatever we want to know. But knowing how to Google something doesn’t make us search experts; there’s much more we can do to access the massive collective knowledge available online. In The Joy of Search, Daniel Russell shows us how to be great online researchers. We don’t have to be computer geeks or a scholar searching out obscure facts; we just need to know some basic methods. Russell demonstrates these methods with step-by-step searches for answers to a series of intriguing questions—from “what is the wrong side of a towel?” to “what is the most likely way you will die?” Along the way, readers will discover essential tools for effective online searches—and learn some fascinating facts and interesting stories.

Russell explains how to frame search queries so they will yield information and describes the best ways to use such resources as Google Earth, Google Scholar, Wikipedia, and Wikimedia. He shows when to put search terms in double quotes, how to use the operator (*), why metadata is important, and how to triangulate information from multiple sources. By the end of this engaging journey of discovering, readers will have the definitive answer to why the best online searches involve more than typing a few words into Google.


“As Dan Russell travels the world, he is constantly observing and questioning. His trick is to discover the clues and then to know how to use searching techniques to solve the mystery. Every chapter is a fascinating journey where we learn interesting things about the world, and, incidentally, how to become master searchers ourselves.”

Don Norman, Professor and Director, Design Lab, University of California, San Diego; author of The Design of Everyday Things

“Everything you ever need to know about search, but that you never asked because you never thought these things were even possible.”

Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google since October 2005

“Dan Russell is the number one search expert in the world and here is a captivating book to help everyone learn how to search. It should be required reading in every classroom in the world. There is a reason he is in charge of ‘User Happiness’ at Google. Easily finding the information you want will make you happy and successful.”

Esther Wojcicki, Founder, Media Arts Program at Palo Alto High School; Vice Chair of Creative Commons; journalist for the Huffington Post

“From killer lakes to Mudejar stars, you’ll learn the best ways to scratch your itch of curiosity. Russell shows how important research is and how to upgrade your research skills for the internet era.”

Matt Cutts, creator of the first family-safe filters for search engines at Google; staff member at the U.S. Digital Service

The Joy of Search does offer a lively means of helping users to develop the thinking skills needed in strategically approaching available tools for solving an information problem.

Scholarly Kitchen

Illuminating and gloriously wide ranging, the book leverages Russell’s expertise to create a practical resource for power searchers and rookie Googlers alike that’s also a pleasure to read.


Russell’s tutorials are on a much higher plane but turn on the same basic principle of learning to treat the search engine as a tool that can at best assist the brain to address questions rather than effortlessly delivering an answer to your screen.

Inside Higher Ed

About the author

Daniel Russell is Google’s Űber Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness in Mountain View. He earned his PhD in computer science, specializing in Artificial Intelligence. These days he realizes that amplifying human intelligence is his real passion. His day job is understanding how people search for information, and the ways they come to learn about the world through Google.

Dan’s current research is to understand how human intelligence and artificial intelligence can work together to be better than either as a solo intelligence. His 20% job is teaching the world to search more effectively. His MOOC,, is currently hosting 3,000 learners/week in the course. In the past 3 years, 4 million students have attended his online search classes, augmenting their intelligence with AI.

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