How to Use Google Scholar to Find Research

Google Scholar

What is Google Scholar?

Google Scholar is a great way to find scholarly and academic articles on the Web; these are highly researched, peer-reviewed content that you can use to dive deep into practically any subject you can think of. Here's an official blurb that sums it all up:

"From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts, and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations.

Google Scholar helps you identify the most relevant research across the world of scholarly research."

How do I find information with Google Scholar?

You can search for information via a variety of ways in Google Scholar. If you already know who the author is of the information you're looking for, try their name:

barbara ehrenreich

You can also search by the title of the publication you're looking for, or you can widen your search by browsing the categories over in the Advanced Search section. You can also simply search by subject matter; for example, searching for "exercise" brought back a wide variety of search results. 

What do the Google Scholar search results mean?

You'll notice that your search results in Google Scholar look a bit different than what you're used to. A quick explanation of your Google Scholar search results:

  • the linked title of the article will go either to full article (if available) or the abstract (short version).
  • "cited by"; this is a running count of other papers or articles that have cited that particular article (this is a good way to find even more articles in your field of interest, by the way).
  • Library or outside database links: within some Google Scholar search results, you might see a link to "library search" or "find it in (insert library name here)". These are just telling you if your local library has an online or offline copy of what you're looking for, if an informational database has it, or if the university from which you're searching with Google Scholar has an actual copy of the article.
  • "group of..." - this is just another way to access more articles similar to the one that you're looking at.

​Google Scholar Shortcuts

Google Scholar can be a bit overwhelming; there's a lot of very detailed information here. Here are a few shortcuts you can use to get around more easily:

  • ehrenreich poverty: If you know the general subject of an author's paper, just type in their last name with the subject.
  • "barbara ehrenreich": If you're looking for a specific author's works, type in the full name (or first name initial with last name) in quotes.
  • author: ehrenreich: You can also use the author operator to return an author's works.
  • Google Scholar Advanced Search: There are a few tricks that you only do within Google Scholar Advanced Search for some reason. For instance, if you are looking for a topic from a specific publication, enter in your topic in the "Find articles with all of the words" box, and the publication in the "Publication - Return articles published in" box. Kind of tricky but it's a great way to return targeted results.
  • Restrict the dates: You can also use Google Scholar Advanced Search to restrict the dates of what you're looking for; just enter in what you want in the "Date-Return articles published between" area. You have the option here of searching within a certain time frame; for example, since 2014, or you can simply type in the exact dates you'd like to look at. 
  • Sort by relevance: You have the option of sorting results by relevance (how close they come to what you originally looked for) or by date (sort by chronological order, then relevance). Be sure to play around with both of these filters if at first your results are not as relevant as you would like them to be; you'll get different results each time. 
  • Related suggestions: Google Scholar gives related suggestions to searches in order to to help users explore topics they may not be familiar with, drilling down for even more detailed information. When searchers look for something here, their search results page may also include related search topics to help explore different directions within the topic of interest. Query suggestions appear after selected search results.

    You can also create a Google Alert for the subject or subjects you're interested in; this way, anytime a scholarly article is released that references your particular interest, you'll receive an email telling you about it, saving some significant time and energy.