It’s hard to believe that Google scholar turns 15 today! It’s safe to say that millions of crucial research projects have relied on this fantastic tool. Although Scholar started off as a modest repository of articles it has since grown into the biggest. By the estimation of one article from this year, Google Scholar, with 389 million records, is currently the most comprehensive academic search engine1. With over 53 million average users per month it has even surpassed Springer and Elsevier2.
So, to celebrate its birthday, here are 5 useful tips to maximize your Google Scholar searches.
1) Avoid using acronyms
Certain acronyms have multiple meanings across numerous fields. Google won’t discern which acronym you want but will present you results that are the most trustworthy and have the highest click through rate.
For example “AAA” could refer to the family of proteins, “Amino acid analysis”, the Agricultural Adjustment Act or even articles about the insurance company of the same name.
2) Search backwards to reach a new well of information
Google scholar search listings reveal a lot of useful information about the articles in the results page. If you click “Cited by” you can find other articles that have cited the same source. This allows you to find fresh sources of related information and clarifies that a source you’re considering will meet your needs.
3) Set up alerts to keep up to date on new literature
If you’re in a field that is rapidly changing or expanding, you might benefit from setting up alerts for certain topics. This will keep you informed whenever relevant content is published on Google Scholar. You can set up alerts on specific authors or keywords.
4) Let Google Scholar build your bibliography for you
Colleting your sources and building a bibliography takes a long time. Thankfully, Google Scholar now has a “cite” button which appears as double quotation marks.
Clicking on the double quotation marks opens up a window the most common citation styles such as APA, Harvard etc.
You can click on the citation format of your choice which you can then copy into your document. Using this feature along with the ability to create libraries will allow you to easily track down all your articles for specific projects.
5) Use Boolean search logic
Although Google Scholar understands regular syntax, it might be more beneficial if you use Boolean searching (e.g., AND, OR) when you have specific terms you’re searching for. For example, searching for “Protein interactions” will save you from sifting through results where “protein” and “interactions” are just words scattered within the article and not in conjunction.
When employing Boolean searching, note that using a minus sign, for example: Proteins -interactions, works better than using the word “NOT” in Google Scholar.
1. Gusenbauer, M. (2019) Google Scholar to overshadow them all? Comparing the sizes of 12 academic search engines and bibliographic databases. Scientometrics, 118(1), p177.
2. SimilarWeb.com. (2019). Similarweb.com - Digital World Market Intelligence Platform. https://www.similarweb.com/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019].