Google Scholar - What's the Buzz?
Scholar (GS) is an exciting new development by Google.com; its goal is to
“help users search scholarly literature such as peer-reviewed papers, theses,
books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports.” The O’Neill Reference
staff recently took a look at Google Scholar and tested it against some of our
subscription databases. Below is a summary of our discoveries and some recommendations.
What's being searched
of GS is on providing access to “peer-reviewed” literature, so content
is primarily journal articles and books. Preprint servers are also searched, sometimes
resulting in retrieval of multiple versions of a document. Other “research
material” that you might expect to find does not appear, presumably because
it is not peer-reviewed (e.g. annual reports, patents). Occasionally the results
of your search might include non-scholarly (or less scholarly) materials such
as poster sessions, symposium presentation schedules, and pamphlets.
Publishers have the option of whether to participate in Google Scholar or not
by allowing GS’s web-crawler to search their web site and permit abstracts
to be displayed for their journals. Sometimes you will find a major publisher
represented only because its journals are being cited in other publishers' pages;
their journals are not indexed in GS (e.g. The American Chemical Society journals).
Unlike the subscription databases where you can get detailed information about
the contents of the database, GS does not provide a list of participating publishers.
Google Scholar has
an advanced search option that permits you to limit your search by author, publication
or date, but traditional databases usually provide many more options to refine
your search according to the needs of the discipline.
In GS, when
choosing your search terms, remember that there is no standardization of terminology;
however, there is often a link to the definition of a term, offering synonyms
and other helpful suggestions. For best results, be sure to enter variations of
your terms, e.g. Journal of the American Medical Association (4,900 articles retrieved)
and JAMA (34,800 articles retrieved).
Google Scholar searches in
the same way that regular Google does; it will retrieve all results that featured
your keyword regardless of context. For example, a search for “Beowulf”,
the 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem, returns many results on Beowulf computer clusters.
To get better results try adding search terms or click on the definition of the
term in the upper right section of the web page for additional help.
Most GS results contain citations to books and
journals. A nice feature of GS is that book results often have a link showing
which libraries own a particular title. The links for journal articles vary; you
may get a citation or the full text. Some articles are available for free on the
Sometimes you will get seamless access to the full text in GS
because of a subscription paid by the Boston College Libraries; other times you
may not be able to access articles we own except by going through the libraries’
gateway. If you can not view the full text through GS, check the Boston College
Libraries’ online catalog, Quest,
to see if the library has an electronic or print copy. If an article is not available
in the library, use
Interlibrary Loan to request a free copy.
Library is investigating the use of the Firefox
browser and a Firefox
extension for Google Scholar. This will result in the Find
It option displaying
and providing links to resources available via the Boston College Libraries.
A few examples
of discipline-specific search results
– A search on obesity and children’s self esteem in GS retrieved information
that was not found in PscyINFO or Web of Science databases. A substantial amount
of that information was in various foreign languages. The number of times an article
has been cited was more current in GS than in the two traditional databases.
Chemistry – Searching on concept terms (“asymmetric
catalysis”) in GS produced adequate retrieval, but chemical name searching
required inclusion of various synonyms for more comprehensive results. The serious
under-representation of American Chemical Society journals is of even greater
concern. SciFinder Scholar does a far superior job all around.
– “Nanotechnology” searching provided very strong results,
owing to the wide participation of the major physics publishers in Google Scholar.
- Business – GS contained many citations to scholarly
business topics. Materials such as financial ratios, market share and annual reports
are not in Google Scholar; although they are available in regular google.com.
- Classics – Searching for “Homer and Ilium
” produced some very good sources. It also located several “articles”
which seem to be college papers.
to use GS
In general we would suggest starting your research
in one of the libraries’
databases because you can select a subject database specific to your topic
and you can refine your search better. We would recommend using Google Scholar
as a supplement to the libraries' resources. If you need help with your research
please contact a reference librarian.
There are many materials available in GS that the library does not own. Please
remember that if you find citations in GS and need to obtain the full text, the
library staff can help you. Please feel free to
For more information, please consult:
Scholar Focuses on Research-Quality Content by Barbara Quint (Information Today,
November 22, 2004)
in the Academic Library: undergraduates may find all they want on Google Scholar
by Carol Tenopir (Library Journal, February 1, 2005)
Sarkodie-Mensah, Manager of Instructional Services
Wyman, Reference Librarian
Ensins, Reference Librarian
Walsh, Reference Librarian