Should I use Google Scholar?

Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com.au/) is a simple free search engine that limits its searches to scholarly literature from academic publishers and research institutions. It excludes material from other corporations, non-scholarly organisations, and individuals.

Google Scholar searches scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources–not only articles, theses, books, abstracts, and “grey literature,” but also material from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites.

Google also compels publishers to agree to be crawled, so it can index the full text of a publisher’s version – unlike most databases.

ADVANTAGES

  • fast, free, easy to use, provides citation metadata
  • indexes grey matter such as theses and conference proceedings
  • Google algorithm ranks article relevance for you
  • see articles related to the one that might interest you
  • see how many times an article has been cited and by whom
  • provides citations for articles in various styles
  • advanced search features including monitoring
  • allows you to save both citations and articles to read later.

DISADVANTAGES

  • coverage is is wide-ranging but not comprehensive
  • can’t search by subject area or material type
  • search results display in order of “relevance,” not the most recent
  • no free full-text access to most articles, but lots of links to items behind paywalls
  • contents are not organised by experts in the fields
  • citation data may be difficult to use and factually unreliable
  • limited filter options
  • no easy way to identify “peer reviewed” sources
  • does not list criteria for what makes its results “scholarly”
  • does not provide notice of when its materials are updated.
  • does not disclose information on sources, which documents are analysed, the period covered, or the algorithms used to obtain and sort results

TIPS FOR BEST RESULTS

  • searches are not case-sensitive
  • use keywords in the search box, not full sentences
  • after entering search terms, click on the search box and Scholar will display suggested searches
  • to search for an exact match, insert quotation marks
  • use the limiters on the left-hand pane to adjust your search results
  • use Boolean search operators (AND, NOT, OR) to widen or narrow your search
  • use the citation information in search results to “breadcrumb” backwards into other articles and content that have cited that source
  • use Advanced Search to curate your ideal results (to access, click the “hamburger menu” to the left of the Google logo)
  • to customise search preferences and options, click the hamburger menu
  • set up alerts to keep up to date with new research literature
  • when signed in, Scholar allows you to keep track of and organise articles you find (the “Save” button)
  • click Google Scholar’s Search Help for more tips on searches, email alerts, citation export, and more

Image source: Walden University

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