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A guide on how to utilize Google Scholar for academic research

Google Scholar is...

Google Scholar is a search engine that provides links to full-text articles to which the University Library system subscribes or to articles made freely available by the publisher or author via pre-prints. 

 "We index papers, not journals."

"Google Scholar includes journal and conference papers, theses and dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, abstracts, technical reports and other scholarly literature from all broad areas of research. You'll find works from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies and university repositories, as well as scholarly articles available anywhere across the web. Google Scholar also includes court opinions and patents."

What does Google Scholar find?  

Includes Excludes
  • substantial fraction of scholarly articles published in the last five years. 
  • journal articles from websites that follow our inclusion guidelines;
  • selected conference articles in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering;
  • preprints from arXiv, SSRN, NBER and RePEC - for these sites, we compute metrics for individual collections, e.g., "arXiv Superconductivity (cond-mat.supr-con)" or "CEPR Discussion Papers".
  • journal articles
  • books
  • technical reports
  • legal cases
  • grey literature
  • patents
  • pre-prints
  • other kinds of scholarly documents.
  • Google Scholar Metrics and overview of inclusion from July 2020
  • court opinions, patents, books, and dissertations;
  • publications with fewer than 100 articles published between 2010 and 2014;
  • publications that received no citations to articles published between 2010 and 2014.
  • don't currently cover a large number of articles from smaller publications

Why use Google Scholar?

Google Scholar is not a replacement for subject databases available through the WMU Libraries. Instead, Google Scholar complements the collection and expands your research. 

Pros Cons
  • Broaden search to what is not indexed in databases owned by WMU libraries
  • Easy natural language search
  • Quick citation count to weigh the impact factor of an article
  • Quick links to citing literature
  • Easy to do a thorough/extensive review of the literature
  • Quick proxy links to full text articles via WMU databases
  • Create an account to set up alerts for different searches
  • Ease of use; similar features of Google web search
  • Search by cited feature
  • Ranking of results
  • Citation information provided
  • Search vast array of information; technical reports, preprints, societal publications
  • Full-text if available
  • Full-text not available or restriction access without a subscription
  • Uneven coverage in social sciences, better for hard sciences
  • No limiter for just scholarly publications
  • Few options to limit or narrow search results
  • Unable to find out exactly what the content is, or what is missing. 

Caution is needed

  • Google Scholar does not index all scholarly articles; therefore, some articles citing the item under study may not be counted.
  • Google Scholar includes citations from an array of sources in its cited by calculation, including PowerPoints and Word documents, and gives everything an equal rank.
  • Author names can be tricky to search and the results can vary greatly depending on how the name is entered; we recommend searching only the author's last name and combining that with the main title in quotations.
  • Variants in how the item is cited can result in more than one entry for the item under study.
  • The term "citation" in brackets [CITATION] at the beginning of an entry, indicates that the full text of the item is not accessible through Google Scholar. Use Library Search to try to locate the complete record. 
*Fun Fact: Google Scholar accidentally parsed information from a school lunch menu!



Information adapted from Western Michigan University at


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Camille Abdeljawad Cook
Parkville Campus
Norrington Center, Room 206
Park University Library
8700 NW River Park Drive, Box 61 - Parkville, MO - 64152
Phone: (816) 584-6285
Toll-free: (800) 270-4347