4.18.2009

GOOGLE: Caught with a sock in its underwear?

Today I was preparing to write a life-changing manifesto titled "Literature as Religion," or maybe "Literature as Protestantism." So I Googled the phrase, "Literature as Religion," to make sure I wasn't re-writing what someone else had already thought.

Here's the results page. Google tells me it's showing results 1-10 of about 759.

But I'm seriously interested in this phrase, thinking I might make it the title of my first book or whatever... so I'm reading all of the entries. I get to page four, showing results 31-36, and... wait... 31-36? Here's that page. So where are results 37-759?

Well, Google says at the bottom of that fourth results page, "In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 36 already displayed.If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included." Ah, so that's where they're hiding the rest of the results.

So I click the link to repeat the search with the omitted results included: Google takes me back to page 1 and says, "showing results 1-10 of about 637." Hmm... not 759, but that would be a nice increase from 36.

But when I get to the fifth page, Google shows me one result: "showing results 41-41 of 41 for 'Religion as literature.' " Here's that page.

Any Google-gurus out there with advice? I need to see more results.

BTW: A Google search for "Literature as Protestantism" turned up zero results. So I have my book title... and a thesis statement. And I'm a more original thinker than you.

6 comments:

Wishydig said...

this has been noted in linguistics forums that are looking for the numbers as an indication of occurrences. google's number is an estimate -- based on...?

google used to offer an explanation. but the link
is now dead.

here are a couple of discussions of the issue:

google's counts faked?questioning reality.

google is like a shotgun. you'll hit something. but it's kinda silly to think it's because of good aim.

so maybe yahoo is like a .22?

Wishydig said...

n.b. those are two links. for some reason your comment form has been ignoring my line breaks in some places

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Google often counts "cached" pages; chances are they're aren't more than 41 pages.

But I did up an advanced search that has a more manageable 17k responses.

Casey said...

Santos... that link didn't work. It's probably my forum, but -- what steps do I take to do the advanced search to get 17k hits?

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Nah, its not your forum, I probably just copied and pasted the URL to your post instead of to the Google search.

So let's try this again

Casey said...

Got it. But those results aren't that satisfying either... most of the 17,600 hits do not include the phrase "Literature as religion," and only make mention of literature and religion somewhere in the text.

Anyway: glad to figure that out.