Google Scholar search tips
Google Scholar search tips every student should know. Source: Shutterstock

Why limit your homework research to Google search alone when there is a suite of Google products, many free, that are just as or even more helpful?!

A useful one for students is Google Scholar, another nifty (and free!) web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.

The first version of Google Scholar in November 2004 was built as a plain, simple and easy-to-use interface to search for information. Enter the topic into the search bar and results (389 million documents as of January 2018) include scholarly literature citations, peer-reviewed publications, theses, articles, court opinions and patents, etc. Today, it’s responsible for bringing more users to academic journals worldwide than any other search engine.

Here are our top tips on how To make the best of your experience on the world’s largest academic search engine, follow these simple-to-follow Google Scholar search tips:

1.  ‘Cited By’ = Influence

Underneath the title and description are several links. One of them is ‘Cited By’  followed by a number. The higher this number is, the more influence it yields, especially if it has been made fairly recently.

2. Use ‘Cite’ link for a variety of citation styles

Another link at the bottom of the description is ‘Cite’. Clicking on this, you’ll be able to see its citation in a variety of citation styles, eg. APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA, Vancouver.

3. To find the most recent papers on Google Scholar

Results are normally sorted by relevance. If you want to sort by date, head to the left sidebar. Then choose one of the following options:

  • click “Since Year” to show only recently published papers, sorted by relevance.
    click “Sort by date” to show just the new additions, sorted by date.
    click the envelope icon to have new results periodically delivered by email.

4. To get the best answers on Google Scholar

While Google Scholar usually produces the highest number of results compared to other academic journal search engines, this isn’t always a good thing when what you want is the best answer.

Using more relevant terminology helps. This means, searching for “pediatric hyperalimentation” instead of “overweight” or “Anopheles mosquito” instead of “malaria mosquito”.

  • You can also click “Cited by” to see newer papers that referenced them as these are usually more specific.

But results can also be too specific. For more general results, click on the “References” section which is usually more general in nature

5. Explore more through the ‘Related articles’ or ‘Cited by’ links

These two links let you see closely related work, or search for the author’s name and see what else they have written. As there is usually more than one answer to a single question, expanding your search will help you get better answers.

6. Talk to your librarian

Reading the full text of articles may require a subscription. Your local or school library would have a list of online subscriptions. Speak to your librarian to find out how you can use these subscriptions. You may have to search through a computer on campus or use a library proxy on your browser.

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