By Barbara Jolie
Learning how to be an effective and efficient researcher is a skill that takes a little time to hone as a college student, yet students of today have an asset that those of yesteryear didn’t: the web. Sites like Google Scholar can help you quickly and more easily find the information you need to write a stellar paper and do well in your classes. Whether you’re new to using Google Scholar or are just looking for a few ways to improve your searches, here is everything you need to know about using Google Scholar.
Here you’ll find answers to the most basic questions surrounding Google Scholar.
- How can I search through my college? If you want to search through your school, you can use a computer at your school, configure your browser to a library proxy or login with your library password.
- What does Google Scholar include? Using Google Scholar, you’ll be able to search through articles, books, theses and court opinions that are found in journals, databases and universities.
- What are the basic features? Google Scholar works much like Google. Users can search for helpful research materials online and in university libraries and databases, as well as get help with managing citations and doing continuing research.
- How does it rank documents? The search engine weighs the full text of the documents it scours, taking into consideration who wrote it, where it was published and how recently it was written or cited by other scholars. This ensures you get the best search results during your research.
- How reliable are the results? Studies have shown that Google Scholar performs as well as, if not better than, a wide range of library-based search engines and databases. Essentially, you’ll be getting the same quality of results as you would in your on-campus library.
- How is it different from regular Google? Unlike regular Google, Scholar only searches through academic and scholarly sources, ensuring you have information you can trust and that is appropriate to use in a research paper at the college level.
- What are the advantages of using Google Scholar? Google Scholar makes it easy to start looking for materials for your paper or to even find a paper topic. Students can access it at any time of day or night and do not have to leave home to find many of the materials it contains.
- How can I find full-text articles? Once you’ve searched for a topic, you’ll be able to click on your results to see where an article is from. Some may be free to access and others may require that you access them through your university.
- Will this help my research? While research is really only as good as the researcher doing it, Google Scholar can be an excellent starting point for any research project. It can point you in the direction of some important articles, books and resources that will be essential to writing a good paper.
- Why is it in beta? Beta means that the search engine is still in the trial stages and that some kinks are likely to be worked out as users discover the pros and cons of the existing system. It does not necessarily mean that it won’t deliver quality search results.
- What does the quote on the main page mean? The main page features the quote, "stand on the shoulders of giants." As a research tool, Scholar lets you metaphorically stand on the shoulders of the researchers, scientists, scholars and academics who’ve come before you.
- How does Google Scholar compare? While some specialty services may be able to deliver better results, students can still expect to find the vast majority of what they need, or at least a starting point through Google Scholar.
Explaining the Basics
Here you’ll find help understanding the basics of what you’re looking at when you do a Google Scholar search.
- Search box. Just like Google, this is where you’ll enter in your search query, whether by topic, journal, author or title.
- Advanced settings. Using advanced search you can do a more detailed search, digging exclusively through journals, authors, catalogs and even through legal results in each state.
- Scholar preferences. With this tool, you’ll be able to choose language, collections, libraries, number of results and citation management.
- Articles, patents or legal opinions. Using this check box, you can determine what kind of results you’ll get whether they’re just articles or they include patents and legal opinions.
- Collections. When you choose a collection, you’ll be able to exclusively get results from categories like Life Sciences, Medicine, Social Science, Engineering and more.
- Search results. Once you’ve done a search, you’ll get a list of search results. This will direct you towards articles and books that fit your topic.
- Cited by. Below the title and author of your results, you’ll see a number next to cited by. This will tell you how many other books and articles have cited this particular source.
- Related articles. When you’ve found a real gem of an article, this tool will allow you to find others that are similar to it.
- Versions. Sometimes there may be multiple versions of an article out there from different sources. This link will let you see the different ones that are available.
- Book or article. You will find the form of your results in brackets in front of the title. This will let you know if you can find it in a journal, in a book or if its available as a PDF.
- Library search. Click on this link to search through your WorldCat to find if an article or book is available at your college library.
Make the Most of Scholar
These tips will help you ensure you’re getting the most out of your Google Scholar experience.
- Your school can give you access to additional materials. Using Scholar when signed into your school account can give you free access to a wide range of articles.
- Never pay for full-length articles. Always check to see if your school has access to the article through one of the databases it pays for first. If you’re not sure, ask a librarian.
- You can hook up Scholar with RefWorks, RefMan, EndNote and BibTeX. Many schools offer these reference tools to students to use, so make your research a little easier by downloading scholar citations to them.
- Several editions of an article might be online. This can mean some are free while others cost something, but students should beware as early versions of articles can have undergone major revisions along the way.
- You can find materials outside your school library. If your school doesn’t carry the books you need, check out the Library Link in scholar to search WorldCat.
- Cut your research time in half by using cited by. This will link you automatically to other articles that are related to your topic and that cite it as a source.
- Not everything is online. Keep in mind as you’re doing your research that not all journals and sources have been digitized or are searchable online. Look outside of Google Scholar as well.
- Set your preferences. Knowing what language you need, what library you’re searching and the kind of results you want is essential to doing good, productive research.
- Refine, refine, refine. Scholar lets users refine what they are looking for to a pretty good degree. Once you know what’s out there start refining your search using the advanced tools and some search tricks.
- Use Scholar as a starting point. Google Scholar should never be the only tool you use to do research. Treat it as a jumping off point and take your search elsewhere when you’re done.
- Not all materials are covered. Remember when you’re using Scholar that Scholar doesn’t index every journal and database out there. You will need to search outside Scholar to be comprehensive.
- Ask for help. If you are not familiar with Scholar or doing college level research, never be afraid to ask for help from someone more knowledgeable.
Make your searches as efficient, effective and awesome as they can be with these helpful tips.
- Search by author: If you want to search by just the author’s name, type in author:author’s name.
- Search by title: You can find an exact title by putting your search term in quotes, like "Title of materials".
- Find the most recent research. Use the drop down menu to change your period of interest.
- Find court opinions. Before you search, choose legal opinions and journals in the check box below the main search box.
- Limit court jurisdictions.To do this, go to the advanced search page then select to limit your results to just federal or courts in a given state.
- Use the related articles tool. This can make it much easier to find things that are really on topic and that suit your research needs.
- Find articles in specific publications. Using the advanced search tool, you can limit your search to only one journal or scholarly publication.
- Search by topic. When you’re just trying to get an idea of what’s out there, it can be useful to search by topic alone or several terms at once.
- Click on citations. These will make your life a lot easier as they can instantly link you to relevant articles that are similar to a particular article.
- Search by author and topic. If you know the author you want information from, you can find what they’ve written on a certain topic by searching for both at once.
- Select collections. Through the advanced search, you can limit your search to just certain collections, a big advantage if you are working on something for a science course versus a social studies course.
- Check out foreign language journals.Not all the good stuff will be published in English. Search through foreign language journals as well by using Advanced Search. You can translate later.
- Craft a more precise search. Once you’ve picked a research topic, you’ll want results that are most related to what you’re writing about. Slowly craft a more precise search and you get more of an idea of what is out there.
- Add a plus sign to key words. By adding a plus sign, you’ll be able to emphasize that a certain term must appear in the results.
- Add more keywords. Adding more words, and placing emphasis on those that are the most important, will help you get results that are most pertinent to your needs.
- Use OR. If you’re trying to refine your search it can be useful to use the OR operator which will let you search for two terms at once.
- Use the minus sign. The minus sign will ensure you don’t see any results with particular terms.
- Use a tilde. By adding a tilde in front of your search terms, you’ll allow scholar to bring up items that are synonyms as well as those that match your term exactly.
- Do a timeline search. You can limit your search to only resources published within certain years, which can be helpful when you’re looking for recent research or that done in the past.
- Search smart. Don’t just search blindly for what you need. Instead, search smart, constantly refining and revising your search terms.
- Create an alert. A recent feature of Scholar is to allow users to get alert when new articles on their topic are added.
- Try a web search. If you’re not finding what you need through Scholar, do a quick web search to see what comes up. You might be looking in the wrong direction.
These links will take you to other Google sites, apps you can link up with Scholar and essential online resources.
- RefWorks: Manage all of your research using this handy online tool. Your school may even be able to set you up with free access.
- RefMan: You can purchase Reference Manager to keep your citations in order when working on a big research paper.
- EndNote: Hook up your Google Scholar results with this citation manager.
- BibTeX: Read up and use BibTeX to keep yourself organized.
- WorldCat: You’ll be able to find any book, anywhere using this search tool.
- Google Custom Search Engine: Build your own search engine for your research here.
- Google Groups: Set up a group here to work with others on schoolwork.
- Google Notebook: Keep track of your notes and important information using this tool.
- Google Code University: Computer science majors will get help writing code here.
- Google Knol: Got a question? Get expert answers here.
- Google Docs: Start writing your paper or keep notes using this web-based tool.
- Google Books: If you find a book you need on Scholar, see if it’s available on Google Books here.
- Google Scholar Blog: Read up on the latest news regarding Google Scholar here.
- Google Guide: Learn everything there is to know about using Google from this blog.
- Google Chrome: Integrate Google into your browsing experience with this free browser.
- Googlepedia: The Ultimate Google Resource: Find out more about Google using this encyclopedia resource.
If you’ve got some lingering questions about Google Scholar, these articles can help to answer them.
- 56 Google Search Tricks for Students: Find new and better ways to use Google with help from this article.
- 100+ Google Tricks That Will Save You Time In School: This article is full of tips and tricks to make using Google a snap.
- Google Scholar Wikipedia: Learn all about the basics of Google Scholar from this Wikipedia article.
- Research Digest: Google Scholar and/or Impact Factor?: This article will teach you how the search results of Scholar can actually affect the research community.
- Create Your Own Google Scholar RSS Feed: If you’re working on a long term project, you might want to create an RSS feed of related topics as they become available. This article can tell you how.
- Google Scholar Is Ideal for Some Things: Here, you’ll find an article that tells you what kind of projects Google Scholar really is best suited for.
- Google Scholar Bibliography: Want to do a little reading about Google Scholar? This site pulls together dozens of articles all about it.
- Google Scholar: A New Way to Search for Cases and Related Legal Publications: Check out this article for information on using Google Scholar to do legal research.
- How Scholarly Is Google Scholar? A Comparison to Library Databases: Worried about the quality of Google Scholar results? Here you’ll get a comparison with scholar and library search tools.
- How to Use Google Scholar to Find Research Paper Material: If you’re searching for a research paper topic, try using this trick on Scholar to find one.
- Finding Research Paper Topics With Google Scholar: Still need some help finding a topic? This article will show you how it’s done.
- Save Hours Writing Research Papers with Google Scholar & Refworks: Learn how to better use the integration of Scholar and Refworks when you’re writing a paper.
- Google Scholar and Other Scholarly Search Engines: Check out this article for tips on using a scholarly search engine.
- Make the Most of Google Scholar for Journal Articles: If you’re looking for journal articles, this post will explain how to find the best ones for your topic using Scholar.
- A Google Scholar open search plugin for Firefox and IE: Techies can apply this plugin to their browsers to more easily search through Google Scholar.
- Using Google Scholar Tools in Blackboard: Did you know you could integrate Scholar and Blackboard? This article explains how.
- Google Scholar: The Pros and the Cons: Learn both the good and the bad when it comes to Scholar from this article.
Trick out your browser for maximum Google Scholar searching power with these extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
- Google Scholar Firefox Add-On: This extension adds Google Scholar to Firefox’s search bar.
- Zotero Scholar Citations for Firefox: For those using Zotero, this tool will automatically collect the citations in it from Google Scholar.
- Scholar H-Index Calculator for Firefox: Use this Firefox add-on to see the citation indices related to the results you’re getting on Google Scholar.
- Google Scholar Legal Content Star Paginator for Chrome: Those doing a little legal research on Google Scholar can use this Chrome extension to change results to look more like Westlaw or LexisNexis.
- Handy Google Shortcuts for Chrome: Add this tool into your Chrome to get quick shortcuts to all Google’s tools.
- Scholarometer for Chrome: Extract bibliographic data from Google into Scholarometer using this easy tool.
- Zotero for Firefox: Make your research a little easier by adding this tool into Firefox.
- Google Search Sidebar for Firefox: Put a sidebar into your Firefox that makes it simple to search Scholar.
- Research Access for Firefox: Download this tool to make all research papers become links to Google Scholar.
- DeeperWeb for Firefox: This tool will help you more easily navigate your Google search results.
- Scholarometer Sidebar for Firefox: If you use Firefox rather than Chrome, use this tool to integrate Scholarometer into Scholar.