Library:Using Google Scholar

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Why Google Scholar?

Google Scholar is a powerful academic search engine that allows you to search for scholarly literature while taking advantage of the simple and familiar interface of the regular Google search. While the standard Google search tries to cover the whole web, Google Scholar's narrower focus means that it is more likely to retrieve materials that are appropriate for academic research papers. Google Scholar provides quick access to materials such as peer-reviewed journal articles, books, preprints, abstracts, theses, technical reports, and other scholarly sources from a wide range of subject areas. As a result, it is a particularly useful tool for researching multidisciplinary topics.

Tips and Tricks for Using Google Scholar

Google Scholar has a number of features that allow you to perform more precise searches. It also gives you the ability to locate related research once you have found one good source to act as a starting point. Some of the most useful features are explained below:

Searching with Precision

Basic keyword searching works well in Google Scholar, but there are also some more specialized features that you can use to help narrow your search. By clicking on the drop-down menu on the main search bar, you can access a number of advanced search options. In this screen, you can perform a more targeted search by specifying an author, publication title, or desired date range. You can also search an entire phrase or be more specific about whether your keywords should appear in the title or the body of any scholarly articles.

Finding Related Research

Once you’ve found one article that looks useful for your research, Google Scholar also helps you to locate other sources that focus on a similar topic. If you click on the “Related articles” link, Google Scholar will take you to a list of articles that it considers particularly relevant or connected. Another way to find related research is by clicking the “Cited by” link at the bottom of a search result. This will take you to a list of other publications that have referenced the original article, which increases the odds that they discuss related subjects or issues.

Linking Google Scholar to UBC Library Resources

While some of the materials that Google Scholar retrieves are not available for free, UBC users have access to many of these publications through the UBC Library. In fact, Google Scholar can be customized to provide full-text links to journal articles available through the Library's electronic resources. To learn how to do this in a few simple steps, check out the following video:

Find an article on Google Scholar that isn't available through the UBC Library? Don't pay for it! Instead, request it through UBC's interlibrary loan service. For more information, contact the UBC Library.

Limitations of Google Scholar

While Google Scholar is an excellent starting point for research, it is important to be aware that it has certain limitations:

  • Coverage: Google Scholar does not include every scholarly publication, so your search will not necessarily find all of the research available on a topic. For example, UBC Library subscribes to certain journals that cannot be found through Google Scholar. If you need to do a comprehensive search of the scholarly literature, you should also use the Library's indexes and databases to check for other relevant journal articles.
  • Currency: Since Google Scholar does not provide information on how often it updates its content, it is possible that the most recent research on a topic will not appear in your search results.
  • Definition of What Counts as "Scholarly" Work: Not all publications found with Google Scholar will fall under the accepted academic definition of a scholarly source. Before using a source found on Google Scholar in a research paper, you should double-check whether or not it is actually scholarly. For a good overview of the characteristics of scholarly sources, check out this UBC Library guide.