A better way to search for government multimedia


The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) is a great online resource for military media. Unfortunately, search engines on government web sites haven’t traditionally been accurate or fast. A better way to search for government media is by using Google but limiting your search to .mil or .gov websites.

Google search tools and operators are covered in this article and can be used in tandem with each other to help you find the content you’re looking for.

Use Google search tools

Every Google search offers a Tools option after initiating a search to refine your pursuit of knowledge to higher quality results. Get comfortable with this tool to improve the quality and types of media you might be searching for. Once you commit a search, choose “Images” or “Videos,” then refine your search as needed.

Use Google search operators

Google search operators are terms typed into a search that help users narrow their search with parameters such as before and after dates, filetypes, omissions and locked phrases. Here are a few quick operators to get your search going.

Limit search to Site to domain or top-level domain

To search for media by top-level domains (e.g. .com or .net) on .mil or .gov sites only, add: site:*.mil or site:*.gov respectively. The site: limits the search to only websites that end in .mil or .gov. Use of the asterisk (*) is known as a wildcard, which allows the site search to look for any site that ends in .mil or .gov.

If you want to search a particular government site, such as 919sow.afrc.af.mil, then search for site:919sow.afrc.af.mil along with your search terms.

Put phrases in quotation marks

Sometimes searching for the news article about your son named Dennis Jackson on a .mil site might bring up more results than you can handle. After all, there are countless Dennises and Jacksons in the military. However, locking the name together in a phrase greatly limits your search. Put quotations marks around phrases like “Dennis Jackson” so only search results with these two words side-by-side will appear.

Be aware, however, that Google might pick up on a sentence like: “… awarded to 1st Lt. Janet Dennis. Jackson, her husband, and …” because Dennis and Jackson are side by side.

Omit terms from searches

Tired of typing in Marine and finding some internet troll reference to crayon eater? You can omit it by putting a hypen (like a minus symbol) in front of any term you want your search to ignore. You could either omit any references to crayons with -crayon or by combining operators -“crayon eater”.

Learn more about Google search operators

Learn more about Google search operators by visiting Refine web searches, an article by Google outlining a few parameters.

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