Answered By: Librarian at Main Library
Last Updated: Dec 26, 2023     Views: 7

You know you want to, but should you?

Unless you've been living under a rock, we are all familiar with the search engine, Google. But did you know there is a sub-section of Google that exclusively tries to search academic and scholarly sources? (Hence the name, Google Scholar.) It has the "ease of use" features we know and love from regular Google, but the results are going to look a lot more like something you'd find in a library database than on the free web.

From the 'About' section of Google Scholar:

"Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research."

So now that you know what it is, is there any question about whether you should use it?
Well, that depends.

For the regular undergraduate researcher, it'll get the job done to quickly find scholarly/peer-reviewed articles, but it can be a little like looking for a needle in a haystack because of the sheer number of results. If you're searching for a topic and you're not quite sure what you're looking for, it may be easier to do your research in a discipline-specific database instead. Talk to your librarian if you'd like to know more.

For graduate students trying to be comprehensive with their research, Google Scholar presents some good points / bad points. It's Google...so your results will be huge, but it's Google...and it's free and doesn't have some of the vetting of sources that comes with some of the paid subscription databases you have access to as a UI student, like Web of Science and Scopus. Lots of people start their research with Google Scholar, but if you want to be sure of what you're searching, get in touch with your librarian to find out about the databases available in your discipline(s).

Quick (and very important) tip: If you are on campus, Google Scholar automatically uses the Libraries' subscriptions to get the full-text of articles, but as soon as you set foot off-campus, you may start hitting paywalls. DO NOT PAY for the articles (unless money is no object to you). We've either a) already picked up the tab for that article through our subscriptions, or b) can request that article for you from another library with our Interlibrary Loan service. When off-campus be sure to LINK YOURSELF TO OUR LIBRARY (see directions).

So, in a nutshell...