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How to use the Google Docs Explore feature for research

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You can make research less time consuming and tedious when working in Google Docs. The Explore feature helps you find content, images, and other materials for your research paper, report, or essay.

As with the Researcher tool in Microsoft Word, Google Docs provides you with the Explore tool. It allows you to quickly look up topics related to your document without leaving Google Docs. You can then add relevant content or images and include citations for those sources.

Open the Explore tool in Google Docs

You have a number of ways to access the Explore tool in Google Docs. First, you can click the Explore icon in the lower right corner of the Google Docs screen.

Click the Explore icon

Second, you can click Tools> Explore from the menu.

Click Tools and select Explore

(These first two options to open Explore are useful if you plan on researching different topics and just want to open the tool.)

Finally, you can open Explore and go straight to your topic. Select the text in your document that you want to find. Then right click and choose “Explore [selected text]. “

Right-click and choose Explore

Each action opens the Explore tool in the sidebar for you to work.

Use content, images and Google Drive with Explore

Whether you use the third option above and go straight to your topic or use the search box to explore, you’ll have three tabs at the top of the Explore sidebar. These include Web, Pictures and Drive.

Add web content

Click on “Web” and you will see web results for the topic, as you would when using Google to search. You can click one to go straight to that resource in a new tab if you want to read more. You can also scroll to the bottom of the results and click “View all results on Google” for a full list. This is an easy way to learn more about your topic.

Click Web for subject results or view everything on Google

If you want to include a snippet of the content you see in the list, you can copy and paste it into your document and add a quote. Select the text, right click and choose ‘Copy’. Then place your cursor in your document, right click and choose ‘Paste’.

Copy and paste content from Explore

Alternatively, you can select the current text in your document for the reference.

Add a citation by clicking the “Cite as Footnote” icon in the top right corner of that source. This automatically inserts the source as a footnote with MLA formatting.

Click the Cite as Footnote icon

To change the citation format, click the “Select citation format” icon (three dots) at the top of the web results. Then choose MLA, APA or Chicago.

Choose a different footnote format

You can also add any of the links you see in the web results to your document. Right click on the link, choose “Copy Link” or “Copy” and paste it wherever you want in your document.

Copy a link from Explore

Insert pictures

If you need an image for your document, click the “Images” tab at the top of the Explore sidebar.

Click on an image for a larger view and to see the source with possible license information. From there you can click “Insert” or press the arrow to return to your document.

View an image from Explore

You can also insert an image directly from the sidebar. Click the plus sign in the top right corner of that image.

Click the plus sign to insert an image

Access to Google Drive documents

Maybe you have a document, picture, or other item saved in Google Drive that you want to refer to. Click on ‘Drive’ at the top of the sidebar and you will see items you have saved related to your search term.

Click Drive to see Google Drive items

Select one to open and view it. From there you can copy and paste from a document or view and download an image.

Explore’s Drive tab is ideal if you have your own research materials that you need for your current document stored in Google Drive.

RELATED: How to organize your Google Drive

The Explore feature in Google Docs is perfect for researching your topic (including the content and images), and even referencing your own saved content from Google Drive.

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