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How To Use Google Scholar  

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2013 URL: http://subjectguides.esc.edu/googlescholar Print Guide RSS Updates

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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.

Before You Begin

If you are unfamiliar with accessing the library's research databases or entering your college login, review How To Access Library Databases

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

If you log into Google Scholar with your college login, your search results list will have links to full-text in the library databases, when it is available. To log into Google Scholar, you have two options:

Why Access Google Scholar Via The Library?

By logging in with your college login, you are routing Google Scholar through the library's proxy server. This is the only way for full-text articles from our databases to appear in your search results. If you do not log in, you will see some full-text links, but not as many.

Also, some of the full-text articles available from repositories are "preprints," which means that they are the pre-peer review version of the article. 

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

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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