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How To Use Google Scholar: Home

How To Use Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a tool for finding scholarly articles. It covers all subject areas and includes content from many (but not all) publishers, as well as content in repositories and on web sites belonging to authors and research institutions.

Screenshot of Google Scholar search, routed through the library's proxy server, with links to full-text highlighted.

Use Google Scholar With Your College Login To Access Full-text Articles

There is a way to search Google Scholar so that your search results list will have not only the articles, pre-prints, and post-prints that are available on the open web, but also links to full-text in the library databases, when it is available. To log into Google Scholar:

Then:

  1. In the second menu (under the header bar) click Settings.Screenshot of Google Scholar. The header bar has a menu containing Web, Images, and More. The second menu down has My Library, My Citations, Alerts, Metrics, and Settings. Settings is highlighted. Next down is the search box. Below that are radio buttons: Articles (with a check box to include patents) and Case Law.
  2. In the menu on the left side of the page, click Library Links.
    Screenshot of the Google Scholar settings page. There is a Search Results menu on the left side of the page. It has Languages, Library Links, Account, and Button. Library Links is highlighted. In the main part of the page under the Collections heading, it has radio button Search Articles with a check box for include patents, and a radio box for Search Case Law. Under the Results per Page header, there is a menu to select how many results per page, which is set at 10 by default. Under the Where Results Open header, there is a checkbox for Open each selected result in a new browser window. Under the Bibliography Manager header, there is a radio button for Don't show any citation import links, and a radio button for Show links to import citations into, and then there is a menu to select the citation manager. At the bottom there are Save and Cancel buttons.
  3. A text entry box and a menu of checkboxes will appear. If SUNY Empire State College is not one of the checkbox options, enter it into the text box and click the search button. Once it is one of the checkboxes, make sure there is a check in that box. Then click the Save button.
    Screenshot of the Google Scholar settings page. There is a Search Results menu on the left side of the page. It has Languages, Library Links, Account, and Button. In the main part of the page it says Show library access links for (choose up to five libraries). Then there is a search box, which has been filled out with SUNY Empire State College. Under that is a check box for SUNY Empire State College Online Library - Full-text @ ESC Library. That is highlighted. Under that are Save and Cancel buttons. Save is highlighted.
  4. Click Save again to get out of Settings.
  5. Now you can search Google Scholar and access full-text articles from the Empire State College Library subscriptions, as well as articles on the open web. You will find full-text links to the right of the search results. They will say "PDF from" or "HTML from" or "Full-text @ ESC Library." 
    Screenshot of Google Scholar search results list. At the top is a header menu saying Web, Images, More. Below that is the Google Scholar search box and search button. On the left side of the page is a set of menus. Under Articles are Case Law and My Library. Under Any Time it says Since 2016, Since 2015, Since 2012, and Custom Range. There are Sort by Relevance and Sort by Date. There are check boxes for Include Patents and Include Citations. There is a link to Create alert. In the main part of the screen is the search results list. The title is a link to more information about that search result. Under that are the author, journal, publication year, and publisher. Under that is a section of the abstract. Under that are links to Cited By, Related Articles, Versions, Cite, Save, and More. To the right there are sometimes links to full-text. For example, PDF from sagepub.com, which is full-text on the web, or Full-text @ ESC Library, which is full-text from our subscriptions.

What Google Scholar Can't Do

Google Scholar can't do certain things that library databases are capable of, such as:

  • Limit search results to only articles that are available as full-text
  • Format article citations in APA, MLA, etc.
  • Sort search results by different criteria
  • Keep track of your search history
  • Mark results from different searches and keep them in a folder

Are All Articles From Google Scholar Scholarly?

Despite the name, Google Scholar does have non-scholarly content. You will need to look at each article to determine whether it is scholarly. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the author a subject expert?
  • Is the article written for other experts?
  • Was the article peer reviewed? 

Click here for an explanation of scholarly versus popular information sources.

When To Use Google Scholar

Use Google Scholar Don't use Google Scholar
You know the title of the article you want You want to search/browse the contents of a certain journal
You aren't sure which database to search You're looking for books or ebooks
You're researching a topic that crosses into many different subject areas (multidisciplinary) You're looking for newspapers, law journal articles, business reports, reference sources, or multimedia

How To Use Google Scholar

Search tips

  • If you mis-spell something, Google will offer suggestions.
  • Put author:"Smith" to search for an article by author's last name.
  • Google assumes that you want the AND operator all keywords. So if you search canine dog wolf, it's as if you were searching canine AND dog AND wolf.
  • Google does use the OR operator. You can put (canine OR dog OR wolf)
  • Google doesn't use the NOT operator. Instead, use the minus symbol like this. "canine" -teeth -tooth.
  • Put quotation marks around exact keywords or phrases that you want in every search result. Otherwise Google's "Smart Search" will interpret them as "strong suggestions" rather than absolute requirements. 
  • Your search results are sorted by popularity, which is based on how many other web sites link to them, and in turn, how popular those linking web sites are. You can change this option in the column to the left of the results list.
  • Once you've searched, you can limit your results by date using the column to the left of the results list. 

Screenshot of Google Scholar search results list with the left column options highlighted.

Searching for a particular article

If you know the article you want, type in the information you have, such as key words from the title and the author's last name. Put keywords and phrases of two or more words in quotation marks. 

Screenshot of Google Scholar search with the search box highlighted.

Searching for articles on a topic

If you are searching by topic, type in keywords that describe it. Put keywords and phrases of two or more words in quotation marks. 

Screenshot of Google Scholar with search box highlighted.

Google also provides search tips.

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