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Google Scholar for Research: Basics of Google Scholar

How to use Google Scholar effectively for research

While most instructors will require you to use the subscription databases for your research assignments, Google Scholar can be a good starting point to learn more about an unfamiliar topic. It will provide information about experts in the subject, journals where scholarly articles may be located, and appropriate language to use in the subscription databases.

Basic Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar Search

Google vs Google Scholar

Google Google Scholar

Broad in scope

Scholarly literature found on the web

Retrieves resources regardless of where they are online

Retrieves resources from academic publishers, professional societies and organizations, online repositories, universities, etc.

Results include images, news, websites, etc.

Results include theses, dissertations, articles, books,abstracts, patents, technical reports, U.S. court opinions, conference proceedings and presentations.

No requirement to be scholarly or based on research

Based on published results of research studies


Knowing which type of search engine to use depends upon what you're researching. Google may be a good place to start, to find background information, terminology, and experts. Google Scholar will help you focus on scholarly literature related to your topic. Move to the subscription databases when you need to find peer-reviewed scholarly literature from journals.

Understanding Google Scholar

As a research tool, Google Scholar has strengths and weaknesses in facilitating research. When deciding whether to use Google Scholar as a resource, here are some things to keep in mind.

Google Scholar can help you:

  • Locate more information when you only have a partial citation.
  • Access books and articles in a single search.
  • Help you identify journal titles and authors connected with your research interests.

Google Scholar cannot:

  • Limit search results.
  • Browse by title.
  • Sort/search by disciplinary field.

Google Scholar retrieves a list of CITATIONS and links to full-text only if:

  • Full-text is available from an open access journal.
  • The author/creator posted the article on a personal website.
  • The author/creator posted the article in a university's scholar commons website.
  • The library provides direct links to materials in the subscription databases. Generally, login credentials will be required before access is granted to full-text.

How to Interpret Your Results List

  • CITATION for the article. Citation includes author, publication title, year of publication, and partial abstract.
  • CITED BY links to a list of other works that cited this specific article. The larger the number, the more important the article is in its discipline. Not all research articles will be cited by others.
  • RELATED ARTICLES links to similar or related works on the subject.
  • LINKS in the far right column direct to the full-text of the article, if available.