Skip to Main Content

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

Use advanced search to:

  • limit to title search
  • combine search terms with author or journal name
  • restrict by year range (can also do this on left sidebar of results page)

This search is targeted by title and year.

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.

To search within a domain add 'site:domain' to the search line.

  • eg to search Australian goverment sites.

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.

But authors can upload their own articles to ensure they are found.


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.


Install the LibKey Nomad browser extension to link to full text.

  • Access LibKey Nomad via your browser's extension manager


  • via Library homepage >> Search Tools & Apps >> LibKey Nomad Plug-in
  • Once installed search and select for your institution
    • membership is by hospital (RMH, RWH or PMCC. Mental Health staff use RMH)

TIP - LibKey Nomad will link to the full text of articles on other sites too. Look for the green teardrop icon.

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 the 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.

You can also create an alert in Google Scholar to be notified of new publications.

Advanced Search Operators

Add these operators in the search box to focus your search.

site: search within this domain eg = Australian government sites
filetype: search by file format eg filetype:pdf for PDF's
( ) groups terms together eg brain (cancer OR tumour OR tumor)
| pipe symbol, can be used instead of OR eg brain cancer|tumour
after: finds sites updated after a nominated date
before: finds sites updated before a nominated date
-  excludes a word from search results eg measles prognosis  -child
"....." searches for exact phrase eg "hospital in the home"
.. between numbers searches that range eg. measles prognosis  age 5..7 years


Uni of Adelaide video: Find Grey Literature with Google Advanced Search (2.02 min)