What is Google Scholar; How to use it for academic research

Google Scholar is a search engine created by Google to scan a huge database of scientific literature, looking for the best matches for your search terms.

Google Scholar was released in beta form in late 2004 and quickly became widely used by students, researchers, authors and others. The search engine not only allows users to access vast amounts of information, but it also makes it easy to cross-reference items with other sources and stay up to date with the latest searches as they come up. publication.

And what you won’t access Google Scholar are search results from non-academic sources such as personal blogs, social media posts, YouTube videos, or other less substantive and reliable sources.

If you want fun and games, go for Google Games; if you want academic research, stick to Google Scholar.

Using Google Scholar, available at, you can access these types of sources (and more):

  • Newspapers
  • Conference papers
  • Academic books
  • Preprints
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Summaries
  • Technical reports

Here’s everything you need to know about this powerful search tool:

How to use Google Scholar

Anyone can access the research database. And while it’s designed for college and graduate students, researchers, and other academics, anyone can benefit from it.

A screenshot of the Google Scholar homepage shows an empty search bar and the phrase

Type any academic topic into the search bar to get started with Google Scholar.

Michelle Mark/Business Insider

Here are some examples of what you can do through Google Scholar:

  • Create alerts. Google Scholar is used to create a collection of searches around a topic of interest, such as global warming, for example. Just like with standard Google Alerts, you can create alerts for the topic so you’re always up to date with the latest information.
  • Discover related works. You can expand your knowledge on any topic that interests you by exploring related citations, authors, and publications, as identified by Google Scholar.
  • See the References section. Accessing the References section of an article can help you broaden your searches to see what sources an author used for their article.
  • Save the articles to your library. Saving your searches to your Google Scholar library helps you organize and track your favorite results.
  • Cite articles in your preferred format. On the search results page, click the To quote button; the pop-up will offer ready-made citations in the style you need, like MLA, APA, and Chicago.

A screenshot of the Google Scholar results page for the search query

Click “cite” and a pop-up will give you the quote in different styles.

Michelle Mark/Business Insider

Access information

Google Scholar is free and can be used as a research tool. However, because it pulls information from many sources, some of the results you get may require a login or even payment to access the full information.

Whether an article is free depends on various factors, such as the publication and the mandates of its funding agency. Go to Public To access of the Google Scholar profile to view its mandates — if a free version is available, you will see an HTML or PDF link on the right side.

Nonetheless, descriptions or summaries are usually free and provide an overview of the article’s content so that you can make an informed decision about whether to spend money.

Remember that not all academic research is equal: different journals have different publication standards. Not all articles listed on Google Scholar will be peer-reviewed (peer review occurs when the author’s fellow researchers and academics in the same field review the article’s content for quality research).

To find out if a research article on Google Scholar is peer-reviewed, the best strategy is to visit the website of the journal in which the article is published. Most peer-reviewed journals will explicitly state that they are peer-reviewed.

Research tips and best practices

  • Sort your searches by date (or specify a start date) to find the most recent and relevant data. In the upper left corner of the search results page, you can choose to search for articles published “at any time”, from a given year, or in a custom range of years – for example between 2015 and 2020, would you like research a topic without the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic coloring it.
  • Pay attention to keywords “all versions”, “related articles” and “cited by” to include free versions of articles in your search results; you should look for PDF files and library publications.
  • Browse the references of an article to better understand a subject.
  • Check out metrics like h-index to see the production and impact of a researcher or publication.

Overall, Google Scholar provides an excellent avenue for scientific research, and while it has drawbacks, it is a tool that can be used to help clarify, explore, and inform users on a wide variety of subjects.

Just as Google Earth can guide you around the planet and Google Translate can demystify other languages, Google Scholar can open up academia to everyone.


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