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by Ray Carlson

Q. When I have a question, I try to use the web to search for an answer. But the search results list a large number of websites to review. Many of those sites have nothing to do with what I asked about or provide more information than I want. How do I make better use of these searches?

A. You picked a good time to ask that question because this week, Google began to use "Knowledge Graphs" to offer searchers more useful information. First, Google has compiled knowledge about 500 million entities. If you list one of these, in the knowledge graph on the right side of the page, Google will provide basic information about that topic and some connections to other related topics. For example, if you asked about an author included in its database, the box on the right will indicate biographical information about that person and list books the person wrote. In some cases, it will list additional information like awards the author won and others who won the same awards.

The content included is guided by past searches trying to anticipate what your next question might be. In addition, if the words listed for the search have multiple meanings, the graph will list these meanings and allow you to indicate which meaning fits your question. For example, you might ask to search for "diamondbacks." Google will ask whether you meant the Phoenix baseball team, the snake, firearms, etc.

This is not the first time that companies have tried to add extra content to searches. The difference is that Google has acquired a lot of experience in seeing how people conduct searches. Since this activity is new, it remains to be seen whether the information provided will be useful or just delay finding the most helpful website. But, for now, this approach seems likely to make searching more interesting.

Published: Courier 5/20/12 - Page 5C