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Google for research

Scholar is a favourite tool of many researchers, however it can be frustrating - frequently returning overwhelming numbers of results.

Follow the slides below to learn how to get the most out of Scholar.

Using Google Scholar for research


Using Google Scholar for research.

Scholar is not a database, it is a search engine.

  • results are found by text word, not topic
  • advanced search can help refine searches

Scholar applies a ranking algorithm to the results.

  • The first results may not be the most relevant
  • Ranking appears to reflect citations and shares
    • this means older papers may appear higher up the list of results
    • limit by date to see newer results
    • grey literature is often many pages down the results as it tends to be cited less.

Scholar does not allow structured searches (as used in databases).

Boolean operator OR can be used for synonyms

The pipe symbol | can be used in place of OR

leave no space either side of |     (on most keyboards | is above the back slash)

AND is implicit (no need to enter it)...

...but if you want to make it clear you can use the + symbol

Maximum search command is 256 characters.

Domain limits will work if Scholar indexes the site in question

Scholar searches the full text of articles

  • databases like Medline do not do this
  • find research mentioning specific tools or concepts that may not be named in the title/abstract
  • use quotation marks to search exact phrases





Unlike databases like Medline there is no schedule for updating Scholar.

New articles appear when Google's bots find and index them.

So newly published articles may not be found,

or they may be further down the results as they have no citations or links yet.

Scholar tracks citations - use the "Cited by" link to see articles which have cited this article.

You can copy the citation using the  symbol under the reference.


To link results to full text:

  • create or sign into your Google account (your Gmail if have an account)
  • from the menu icon at top left of screen select 'Settings'
  • select 'Library links'
  • search and select libraries you are a member of.

Now when you search you will see links to your library access.

You can create a library of articles:

  • click the symbol under each result to save it.
  • click "My Library' at top right of screen to see articles you have saved.

Export to a reference manager program from 'My Library'


Both Google and Google Scholar may return different results depending on location, user, prior search history, computing system and over time.

For this reason they are not recommended as a prime information source for research with implied replicability, such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

They can be used as a supplemental source, or for research with no implied replicability or rigour.