How To Use Google Drive’s New Research Tool

Google recently added a new tool to their Google Drive, formerly known as Google Docs. The Research Tool helps users find information to add to documents and presentations quickly without leaving the Google Drive interface until the user clicks a discovered link.

To access the Research pane, open a new document, spreadsheet or presentation editing window by clicking the Create button in the upper left. Select the kind of document to create from the drop down list. This examples shows how to use it after creating a document, but it works the same way with presentations and spreadsheets.

By default the Research window won’t show. Click on Tools and then Research or use the keyboard shortcut COMMAND + OPTION + R on Mac or CONTROL + ALT + R on Windows. The Research pane shows up along the right.

Docs research

The Research pane includes a few sections. At the top sits the search box with two arrows. Type a search string and it behaves like a simple Google search. Use the drop down arrow to choose what to search. Choose from:

  • Everything – default and searches the InternetGet started
  • Images – finds only pictures
  • Scholar – finds articles, papers and journals
  • Quotes – finds quotations from famous people or well-known places

Below the search box sits the “Get Started” section. It explains how the Research tool works and offers four example searches that users might use. Click one of them to test the tool.

The third section includes links that behave just like the drop down list. It changes the search behavior to one of the above listed search tools. Clicking them acts just like clicking the item in the drop down list.

The Settings feature at the bottom of the pane changes the kinds of things Google returns. Toggle searches between no filter based on usage rights or find things users are “Free to use, share or modify, even commercially.” In other words, Google will return items that won’t get the researcher sued for using in a published document.


There’s one other way to use the research tool. While writing a paper, research a term in a document. To do select the word and right-click to bring up a context menu. Choose Research from the context menu and it searches for that word.

I wish Google would change the way the Research pane behaves when one clicks a link from search results. Right now it opens a new window, but I’d like the option of seeing the page in the same research pane. If it doesn’t fit, the user could expand it to read or copy information and then contract it to work in the document, spreadsheet or presentation. As is, the tool is more useful for finding links that finding real answers.

I’d also like to see an option for specialized searches, like definitions of words or synonyms that show up in the Research pane instead of opening a new window. They would fit even if other kinds of pages don’t.

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