What is Google Scholar? How to use the academic database for research
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  • Post published:23/06/2021
  • Post last modified:23/06/2021
  • Google Scholar is a searchable database of scholarly literature.
  • It connects users with studies and journal articles on nearly any topic of interest.
  • Not all articles are free — you might need a membership to read the full versions.
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Established in 2004, Google Scholar is a massive database of scholarly literature that allows users to access information, cross reference it with other sources, and keep up with new research as it comes out.

Using Google Scholar, you can access these kinds of sources:

  • Journals
  • Conference papers
  • Academic books
  • Pre-prints
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Abstracts
  • Technical reports

Here’s everything you need to know about the powerful research tool.

How to use Google Scholar

Anyone can access the search database. And while it’s built with college or grad students and other academics in mind — to help those writing academic papers create bibliographies more easily — anyone can reap its benefits.

On the Google Scholar homepage, you can search by “Articles” or “Case law.”
Grace Eliza Goodwin/Insider

Here are just a few examples of what you can do through Google Scholar: 

  • Create alerts. You can create a library of research around a topic of interest, like global warming, and create alerts for it so that you’re always up-to-date on the latest research.
  • Explore related works. You can gain deeper knowledge around a complicated topic that you’re interested in, like studies in the field of astronomy, by exploring related citations, authors, and publications.
  • Check out the References section. Accessing an article’s References section can help you branch out your research to see what sources an author used for their paper. 
  • Save articles to your library. Saving your searches to your Google Scholar library helps you organize and keep track of your favorite results. 
  • Citation export. You can export an article’s full citation in your preferred format using the “Bibliography Manager” section. 

Accessing information 

Google Scholar is free to use as a search tool. However, since it pulls information from many other databases, it’s possible that some of the results you pull up will require a login (or even payment) to access the full information.

Still, descriptions or abstracts are typically free and provide an overview of what’s contained within the article. 

Articles and books that aren’t free will still provide an abstract or description.
Grace Eliza Goodwin/Insider

Overall, Google Scholar provides an excellent avenue into scholarly research, and while it does have its drawbacks, it’s a tool that can be used to help clarify, explore and inform users about a wide variety of topics.

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