How to use Google Scholar

How to use Google Scholar

Learning how to use Google Scholar is an immediate game-changer for any student who is serious about improving their university/college results – or even just surviving university!

In this blog post, first we’re going to ask the question “What is Google Scholar?” before turning to what/how to use Google Scholar and look at how it can help you improve your academic studies TODAY.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do a deep dive on practising these skills today – introducing these features and practicing using them would make this a very long post.  If you want to practice these skills though, definitely check out our Academic Study Skills course where we go through this and a wide range of other related skills (like citations and referencing, using Turnitin, hedging and more!).  If that sounds like you, hit Start Learning and start your journey to academic success today!

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What’s that?  You’re still here?  Fair enough – let’s give you a run-down of Google Scholar – still plenty of opportunities to scroll back up and enrol later.  Let’s begin this blog post by looking at what Google Scholar is…

What is Google Scholar?

In its own words, Google Scholar “provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature”.  The first key thing to know about Scholar is that it functions in very much the same way as any other search engine – users input keywords and it returns results.  In the case of Scholar, these will tend to be a combination of results that are i) the most relevant and ii) the most cited* articles/resources.   *As in cited by the most academics – meaning they’re most likely the most informative and/or reliable resources. For more on citations and referencing, check out our popular blog post on the importance of referencing in academic writing.

It’s worth noting that Scholar indexes things that aren’t necessarily publicly available – though they typically will be through a university library. For example, let’s have a look at a typical results page.  

How to use Google Scholar: an example

If you want to see this results page for yourself, click here but then come back and we’ll explain what you can see.  

Google Scholar Research Topics

As you can see, our key words that we searched for are “service dominant logic of marketing”.  Service dominant logic is a fairly fashionable notion within marketing so it will give us a bit of a range of results. (7 that you can see here).  Let’s say you want to read one of these – all you need to do it click “PDF” and it’ll take you straight to a copy of the journal.  All of them apart from the 2nd and 6th result – they’re a bit different.  

The second one (titled The service-dominant logic of marketing: Dialog, debate, and directions) is, as the label beside it suggests, a book.  A lot of books aren’t accessible this way (you’ll need a good university library to access those) but for this you can just click the link and it’ll take you to a copy of the book.  Which leads us to that second-to-last title there: Extending the service-dominant logic: from customer centricity to balanced centricity.  

Unlike most of the others, it doesn’t have [PDF] written beside it.  In short, this is because Google can’t locate an “open access” copy of this article.  However, if you have access to a university library, you’ll most likely be able to access it this way.  

Pretty useful, right?  Well, there’s more than just using it for search – let’s turn and look at a few of those uses now.  

How can I use Google Scholar? What is it good for?

Well, a lot.  We’ve touched briefly on using Scholar as a search tool but it’s worth noting that you can refine this search by title, subject, author, or year.  All that needs is a bit of Advanced Scholar Search (click the link to see what that looks like).  This uses a whole range of library database skills that we cover in our Academic Study Skills course and will also be covering in our upcoming blog post on this topic so be sure to subscribe to make sure you get that awesome content straight to your inbox!

But it can do more than that – you can also use it to find other, related resources.  Let’s look at that now

How to use Google Scholar to find related research

There are two main ways you can do this – related articles and cited by.  Related articles kind’ve explains itself so we’ll leave that one and turn to “cited by”.  To help us explain this, have a look at the image below.

So you’ll see that we’re focussing on the first of the results from our search before.  The first thing that we’re interested in is the “cited by” button. That number (14,486 at the time of writing but it will keep climbing over time) represents the number of times that this article has been cited.  And we’re not talking about students – these are published, peer-referenced resources citing these articles – so you know that it must be good.

A note about these numbers – a low number doesn’t necessarily mean something is poor quality.  Articles with in niche fields will tend to get lower citation counts – and any newer article will, almost by definition, have fewer citations than older articles because there hasn’t been time to cite it yet!  That said, the above number is ridiculously high – as we said before, this is/has been a very fashionable notion in Marketing – which is itself a fairly fashionable/high output subject area.

What else can Google Scholar do? You must be finished…

Surprisingly enough, we’re not – though we have run out of time for this blog post.  If you want to look at how you can use Google Scholar to find background information on authors, build libraries, set alerts for the latest research, and test sources for their academic authority, click Start Learning below to join our Academic Study Skills course.

Otherwise, that’s us for our HeadStart Guide on note taking methods  – we hope it’s been useful! As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments – write us a post below or follow us on Facebook.   Or, if you want to get more of these blog posts straight to your inbox – join our mailing list.  Or if you have a question or a topic that you’d like us to write a blog post (or even better – a full lesson) about – email us!  We read every email.

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