Use Google Scholar Effectively for Research
What is Google Scholar?
Google Scholar is an online, freely accessible search engine that lets users look for both physical and digital copies of articles. It searches a wide variety of sources, including academic publishers, universities, and preprint depositories looking for:
- Peer-reviewed articles
- Technical reports
While Google Scholar does search for print and online scholarly information, it is important to understand that the resource is not a database. A database, such as those on the Undergraduate Library Find Articles page, is a subscription-based resource that searches for articles that have been published.
How Google Scholar Can Help You
- is easy to search if you are familiar with the Google search engine
- provides some basic and advanced search options, like a database
- attempts to help you find the most useful scholarly resources by ranking articles in order of relevance
- you can search a specific article title in Google Scholar to see how many times it has been cited
- provides direct access to full text of articles if they are available for free online
- can link to library catalogs (including the University of Illinois catalog), helping you find resources within your own library and beyond
Why a Database May be a Better Choice than Google Scholar
- provide the ability to focus search by subject area
- allow users to sort results according to date and relevance
- allow users to sort results by type of material (academic journal, magazine, newspaper, etc.)
- contain the ability to limit searches by a variety of criteria
- will never charge you for the full text of an article if the University of Illinois has a subscription to that database
As a student, you have access to countless databases that cover a wide variety of disciplines, areas that may not be represented as well by Google Scholar.
- does not contain an easy way to sort articles in your results list
- may charge you to view the full text of an article you've found
- does not clearly specify what type of material (academic journal, magazine, newspaper etc.) is in the results list
- provides full text of some electronic articles but is not as helpful in tracking down print articles
Evaluate Your Sources: Whether you get an article from a database or from Google Scholar, make sure to evaluate it to determine if it fits what you are looking for. What is the publication type (is it a journal or a magazine?)? Who is the author and what are their credentials? How recently was it published? Does the information in the article fit your needs? See our page on Evaluating Scholarly Sources for more questions to ask.
Ask a Librarian: If you are ever in doubt about the reliability and credibility of a resource or need assistance finding a proper resource, do not hesitate to ask a librarian.
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