Skip to Main Content

Google Scholar and Pfau Library: Things to consider about Google Scholar

Find library resources through Google Scholar.

Should I use it?

By all means, however, you should be aware of its strengths and weaknesses. Google Scholar describes its content as, “Articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.” Rider University has created a helpful grid comparing Google, Google Scholar, and library databases

Is it entirely scholarly?

No. For instance, documents pulled from online collections and university websites may have content that is not scholarly, including newsletters, magazines, minutes, or any other material a university decides to archive in their institutional repository.

Who decides what shows up in it?

Google Scholar does not curate its content, it relies on robots to crawl “academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites” looking for documents structured in a certain manner. It also allows publishers to request inclusion, which is granted as long as they structure their content to meet Google’s standards.

Does it have everything?

Google Scholar indexes a lot of content, much of which our library databases do not, such as some Open Access journals. However, despite claiming that you can, “Search all scholarly literature from one convenient place,” there is also a lot of content the library databases index that Google Scholar does not, such as content that must be subscribed to in order to gain access. Serious researchers should use these resources in combination and not simply rely on one source.

How do I get to the actual articles?

Google Scholar does not directly provide articles or other content, rather it links to them on other sites across the Internet, including in the Deep Web, much of which is restricted and requires a paid subscription, a fee per article, or having an affiliation with an intuition that has access. Fortunately, you can set up Google Scholar to link to the resources paid for by the Pfau library.

That having been said, Google Scholar does have links to free content that authors, publishers, and others have mounted on their sites that the library may not have access to through our databases, including preprints (articles that have not yet been official published). It’s a good idea to check both Google Scholar and our databases before requesting material through Interlibrary Loan.

You should never pay for anything you find in Google Scholar or our databases, we either have it or can generally get most items for you within a short period through Interlibary Loan.

Any other concerns I should be aware of?

Ethical use of intellectual property is not standard around the world and Google Scholar does not distinguish between materials based on these considerations. Recently, a librarian at CSUSB noticed that an article indexed in Google Scholar was an introduction to a book they had written that had been translated wholesale to Turkish and published by a “peer reviewed” journal at a university in Turkey under the plagiarizing author’s name with no attribution to the original author. Always, thoroughly examine your sources before including them in your work.

What should I know about searching Google Scholar?

Results are displayed by relevance, meaning Google uses an algorithm to decide what should be placed in your results and in what order. Google has not revealed its algorithm, but here are a few things we know:

  • Google Scholar ranks the words in your search based upon order, so that the first word in your search is ranked higher than the second and so on and so forth.
  • Google automatically truncates (or stems) words, therefore, a search on parenting generates results with parent, parents, parental, etc.