Using Google Scholar to Improve Your Research

How Google Scholar Improves Your ResearchOnline scholarly search engines have made it easier than ever for academics to efficiently search and cite more literature than ever before.  And, as it always is when it comes to web search engines, Google is an industry giant with its offering: Google Scholar.   So we’ve chosen to profile Google Scholar in our latest entry into our ever-growing list of productivity tools and featured resources for academics to help you become a better researcher.

What is Google Scholar?

For those who aren’t yet familiar, Google Scholar is a free online search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across a wide diversity of disciplines and publishing formats, including academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, online journals, legal databases, court opinions, abstracts, scholarly books, and other non-peer reviewed journals.

The same way you use Google to search the web for your day-to-day queries, you simply type your search query into Google Scholar to search for journal articles, preprints, books, theses, technical reports, and other documents and web pages that are deemed to be “scholarly” and Google Scholar finds digital or physical copies of these articles, whether online or in libraries.  It’s simple to use and its “advanced search” option is efficient in narrowing your search results to the most relevant information to your research paper or project.

Your search results will be ranked and displayed according to keyword relevance, author’s ranking, number of linked references to other scholarly literature and its journal publication ranking.

Features to Focus your Research

Sure, Google Scholar allows you to Search, Find, Locate, and Learn… but another of its real strengths lies in its ability to allow users to narrow search results to efficiently access and cite only the most relevant scholarly publications to that user’s research.

Google Scholar’s “advanced search” feature enables you to increase your search accuracy and effectiveness by fine-tuning your search to focus on Author, Publication, Date, Legal opinions and journals, Jurisdiction, and other criteria.  Whether you are searching for one specific article, every published piece by a specific author, or relevant information published between certain years in a certain country, you can employ the “advanced search” option to focus your search results, and save you time and energy!

Google Scholar also allows you to utilize its “group of,” “cited by” and “similar articles” features to further ensure that you find exactly the information you are searching for, whether that is achieved by narrow search parameters or navigating similar subject matter or cited works to hop from one relevant article to the next.

Drawbacks and Limitations

In our experience using Google Scholar, two limitations must be pointed out.

First, Google Scholar also indexes sites that are not scholarly so you must use your discretion and common sense to evaluate sources as you would with regular Google searches.

Secondly, Google Scholar does not automatically grant users access to full publications when they are available through paid subscription sites.  In some cases, you will see a sample of the publication and then be required to pay a subscription fee to read the full text version on the hosted site.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

At Journal Prep, we are always looking for new resources and efficiency tools to help you become better researchers and, although Google Scholar is widely known, we would be remiss not to profile it here.   Through its search engine expertise, the wealth of information on the web, and by enabling users to narrow search results according to an array of criteria options in order to pinpoint only the most relevant information for their research, Google Scholar is a powerful tool for your academic research!

If you haven’t used it before, we encourage you to try it out and, if you’re a Google Scholar expert, we’d love to hear how you use it to benefit your academic endeavours!


Was this article helpful? Be sure to check out our How to Use Endnote page here, our How Dropbox Can Make You a Better Researcher article here and our Using Join.Me to Improve Research Collaboration article here.

Already using Google Scholar for your research?  Are there other tools, resources, or services to help academics that you’d like us to profile?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below or email us at!

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