Define properly

How to get one precise definition


Use case:

  • You read something attentively and wish to go behind guessing which concept stands behind a noun phrase. Authors tend to add specific expressions we get but don’t grasp the exact definition. When it comes to get a real understanding, we need to go for definitions.
  • When we write, we are tempted to use a new expression or reuse one we read. There is a difference between vaguely understanding for ourselves and placing it in our writing. Getting the correct definition is crucial. Check definitions is you are not 100% sure.

How to:

Start your Google query with “define:” followed by the concept name.

Google will take everything after “define:” as the exact match to search and will display a definition in a definition box as shown above.

In most cases Google has a definition ready in the Google Knowledge Graph. This once open source project is built from scouting the web and searching for concepts and relations. Wikipedia is a major source. Pages are scrapped down to a minimal paragraph used as a definition.

  • The colon is optional but it’s a good practice.
  • It’s efficient because otherwise, you will have to click on a result, find a definition within the page.
  • The ranking is different from normal queries. A page can very well rank well for “independent learning” without having any definition to offer or easy to copy.
  • It shows one definition. Even if it is not the best for your usage it is likely people will have this understanding when they read your work. If you don’t align with it, it’s a precious indicator that you should include your definition in your text.
  • A dictionary will not do the job because it deals with individual words in the most commonly accepted sense. This is really for groups of words and business jargon.
  • If there is a good definition in Wikipedia it is often used in priority. It expands behind Wikipeda and include more recent views.
  • Critical thinking applies as usual. Artificial stupidity is never very far from brilliant features..

Let’s stretch this learning a bit further.

When you type your query Google will present you with variants. If the variant starts with “define” you are presented concepts starting with the same words, If “define” is not present you are presented with popular queries. Words in a query can be placed anywhere in a text, not necessarily contiguously.

To restrict a definition within a given domain use “in”. define analytic in philosophy or define analytic in maths will led to two different results.

What I searched

define: independent learning [bs_button size=”md” type=”info” value=”Click to try” target=”blank” href=””]

Try something now:

Search for the definition of “social learning”
Hint: Move mouse here to reveal the hint
Click this link for the solution

What did you notice on the combo box as alternative? Share you results on the “More” page

Apply this in your work today in 5 minutes:

Take an occasion today to check for a defintion in something you wrote. Share your observations on the “More” page.

That’s all Folks!

  • You learned “define:”, “in” and when to use them.
  • You are now aware of the Google Knowledge Graph, how it’s built.
  • You experimented the new learning once.

Click here to read more or comment.

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This tips was part of our “Search” serie. Search is important to seek information and resist to the temptation to keep everything