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Biology library guide to information searches

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a very powerful search tool that often finds relevant publications. The main drawbacks is that you have little control over your search and you have limited options to customize the search to your particular needs. Google Scholar works best if you just put in a string of words and let the algorithm work for you.

Main benefits of Google Scholar

  • Very large index. Most scientific journals are indexed by Google Scholar
  • Searches in the full text. Very useful if you have a narrow subject or are interested in something specific that are perhaps not mentioned in the title or abstract but is present somewhere else in the publication (e.g. method section or discussion).
  • Easy to use. Basically whatever you will search for will generate some results (even if you have misspelled)
  • Powerful search algorithm. Often you will find something relevant on your first try.

Main drawbacks of Google Scholar

  • Lacking quality control. In the search results you can get publications with low scientific quality, for example papers from non serious journals.
  • Preprints. In the search results you can get so called 'preprints', scientific manuscripts that have not gone through peer review. Although these may be of interest to you, it is up to you to determine the scientific quality of the content.
  • No manually added subject terms. Unlike the bibliographic databases, Google Scholar doesn't have manually added subject terms. This means that you may miss relevant publications because you haven't search for the terms that the authors have used in their text.
  • Fewer search options. Boolean operators (AND/OR/NOT) and truncation(*) should be possible to use in Google Scholar but often it doesn't work very well. Limited possibilities to search in particular fields can be found under "advanced search". Phrase search works well.
  • Fewer options to filter the search results. You can choose to sort the results according to relevance or date, to exclude parents and citations, but not much else.
  • Little control over your search. The search algorithm is advanced (and secret), which makes it difficult to describe the search in detail. It can also be difficult to repeat the search at a later time and get the same results. For these reasons, Google Scholar is less suitable to use when conducting a systematic literature search where the demands on transparency are higher.

Here you can find an online guide on how to use Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/intl/en/scholar/help.html