Using Google Docs to do Research

Google docs, or as it is now called Google Drive, is a tool every Frugal Prosumer who uses a computer should be aware of for the following reasons:
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Can be accessed from any computer platform (windows, mac, iso5, etc.)
  • Used by millions of people and businesses.
  • Can replace costly word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software etc.
  • You can do real time collaboration with people anywhere in the world.
  • It is part of the Google world and integrates nicely with all their products (blogger, Google sites, android devices, and many many more.
Now it has a very nice research tool tied to it.

One of the  problems with word processors is that they are mainly designed for writing. If you’re working on a report and need to look something up, you have to minimize the program and open a browser to look it up. This can be a hassle, especially if you switch windows a lot. Google has introduced a feature that allows users to conduct research right in the Google Doc they’re working on.

In order to help make people more productive, Google Docs has a new feature called Research. Say you’re developing a flyer for a new product and need to know if a quote you’ve just used is accurate. Normally you’d have to open another browser tab and search for the quote. With Research, you can simply highlight the quote, right click and select Research. A pane will open on the right side of the document with the search results.

The Research tool makes it easy to add information from the web to your documents. To access the tool:
  • Select the Research option from the Tools menu.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Opt + R on Mac, Ctrl + Alt + R on PC).
  • Right-click on a specific word and select Research.
The Research tool will appear along the right-hand side of your document. You can start a search by typing into the search bar. You can narrow your search to specific types of results (e.g. images, quotations) by using the drop-down menu in the search bar.

Researching different types of information relevant to your document

When conducting a search, the Research tool will show you different types of results — web results, images, quotations, maps, reviews, and more.
Use the back arrow to the left of the search bar to return to the previous page of your search results and the forward arrow to move forward in your search results.
Follow the instructions below to explore search results relevant to your document.

Web results

Under the web results category, you’ll find a number of websites related to your search. If you select one of these results, you’ll see several options:
  • Select Preview to see a preview of the website. Click on the site link at the top of the preview pane to open this page in a separate window, or select Close at the bottom of the pane to close the preview.
  • Select Insert link to add a link to the website into the body of your document.
  • Select Cite to create a footnote citation of this web result within the body of your document.


Images will appear in the general search, as well as an image search. Narrow your search results to only images by selecting “Images” from the drop-down menu in the search bar.


Narrow your search results to only quotations by selecting “Quotes” from the drop-down menu in the search bar. Once you have selected the quotation you’d like to use in your document, click Insert to add it to your document with a footnote citation.

Article citations

Narrow your search results to only articles by selecting “Scholar” from the drop-down menu in the search bar. Once you have selected an article you’d like to read or reference, click on that entry in the search results. You will see a Web or PDF hyperlink in the upper left-hand corner of the entry that will take you to a web or PDF version of the article itself. You will see a Cited by hyperlink in the upper right-hand corner of the entry, showing how many times the article has been cited, that will direct you to the Google Scholar list of sources that have cited this article. Clicking on either of these links will open the result in another window.
To insert an article citation into your document, select the article and click Cite.


When conducting a search in the Research tool for a geographic location, your search results may include a map. You can edit this map by selecting Edit and then zooming in/out or dragging the map. Once you have the exact map image you’d like to include in your document, click Insert. You can also drag and drop the map image into your document.

Choosing your citation format

To select a default format for citations added to your document, click on Settings towards the bottom of the 'Get Started' page in the Research pane. Use the drop-down menu to choose from MLA, APA or Chicago. Your selected citation format is applicable to citations for web results, images, quotations and article citations.