Getting Better Results with Google Scholar

Use these tips to make Google Scholar work better!

Google Scholar Searches for Scholarly Online Sources

Google Scholar (GS) shows citations to articles, reports, online books, and other materials that show up online.  Its searches are set to cover scholarly material more often than 'regular' Google. Materials are listed according to address (esp. domain, such as .edu or .gov), what cites them, what's cited by them, what's linked to them, and other variables. GS calls this Page Rank (but the factors in it are proprietary--they aren't telling, past a certain point).

Google Scholar searches broadly, so it almost always finds something. Many of the databases allow Google to 'see' their content, and many of the items you can open are there because of what the University Libraries is paying for. Use the subject databases AND GS for a more comprehensive search. You will have to evaluate what you've found to make certain that the quality of each source that you use is adequate for academic work. 

The materials that show up in Google Scholar may or may not be available from our Libraries, but even as with the subject databases, we can usually get them for you through Interlibrary Loan (ILL/ILLiad) if we don't own them.

Check our holdings through OneSearch, other databases, or through the A-Z list of electronic journals, then use Interlibrary Loan (ILL or ILLiad) if the materials aren't available here.

Use the side bar called "Linking Google Scholar and the Libraries" for directions on how to set your browser so that the Find It links work from off campus. You may also set it to work with EndNote/ EndNote Basic, LaTex (the Bibtex choice) and other citation managers.

Check our resources before you give a Web site a credit or debit card number to pay for materials. It is very likely that we have them or can get them for you.

Google Scholar Searching Summary

Google Scholar searches with context AND phrase searching, inspired by voice searching with cell phones. That is why you can give the search engine a sentence, and get some relevant results.

The Boolean searching default is AND: the search flower pot= flower AND pot. If you want the words to be found together, in order, put them in quotation marks so that you get the phrase "flower pot". 

It also works well to copy and paste in the title of a known work, such as an article's title, though it will work even better if you put it in quotation marks to make a bound phrase.

If you want to find a specific word and not the variations of the word, or a specific spelling of a particular word, you can put it in quotation marks by itself.

for example: "speculative"

If you want to use OR between synonyms, it must be capitalized. Otherwise it's ignored.

For example:(cotton OR gossypium) glyphosate

The order of your keywords matters; earlier is considered more important. Some words are 'stop words' which are ignored.

Capitalization does not matter, except for operators such as OR.

Google Scholar doesn’t support truncation, where you put in a word stem with a truncation symbol to get word variations, plurals, etc. It doesn't support left truncation, either-- that is, where you'd put the truncation symbol ahead of the term-- *chlorate to get percholarate, etc.

Google Scholar is not comprehensive

Despite some claims, Google Scholar is not comprehensive. It is only searching and skimming what it finds on the Web within a particular context. Whether or not you are logged in may make a difference.

Most content in Google Scholar is from 1995 on, although they will have some content from earlier years. In general, it goes back in time much less far than some databases (some go back more than one hundred years, like PsycINFO or Engineering Index), and absolutely less far than some printed indexes, so you may miss some classic studies.