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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 material for your research paper, report, or essay.

Similar to the Researcher tool in Microsoft Word, Google Docs gives you the Explore tool. This lets you quickly look up topics related to your document without leaving Google Docs. Then, you can add pertinent content or images and include citations for those sources.

Open the Explore Tool in Google Docs

You have a few ways to open the Explore tool in Google Docs. First, you can click the Explore icon at the bottom-right corner of the Google Docs screen.

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

Click Tools and select Explore

(These first two options to open Explore are convenient if you plan to research a variety of topics and simply want to open the tool.)

Finally, you can open Explore and go directly to your topic. Select the text in your document that you want to look up. Then, right-click and choose “Explore [selected text].”

Right-click and pick Explore

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

Use Content, Images, and Google Drive with Explore

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

Include Web Content

Click “Web,” and you’ll see web results for the subject listed like you would when using Google to search. You can click one to go directly to that source in a new tab if you want to read more. You can also scroll to the bottom of the results and click “See All Results on Google” for a full list. This is a convenient way to read up on your topic.

Click Web for topic results or view all 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 include a citation. Select the text, right-click, and pick “Copy.” Then, place your cursor in your document, right-click, and pick “Paste.”

Copy and paste content from Explore

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

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

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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 one of the links that you see in the web results to your document. Right-click the link, pick “Copy Link” or “Copy,” and then paste it into your document where you want it.

Copy a link from Explore

Insert Images

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

Click an image to get a larger view and to see the source with any licensing information. From there, you can click “Insert,” or hit 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 at the top right of that image.

Click the plus sign to insert an image

Access Google Drive Documents

Maybe you have a document, an image, or another item saved in Google Drive that you want to reference. Click “Drive” at the top of the sidebar, and you’ll see items that you’ve saved pertaining to your search term.

Click Drive to see Google Drive items

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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 for when you have your own research materials that you need for your current document saved to 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 the images), and even for referencing your own saved material from Google Drive.

Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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