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Help, Guides and Instructions: Google Scholar

This Research Guide helps patrons of the NWC Library make the most of their library experience by introducing important databases and resources available to them. It serves as a starting place to learn how to use the library online catalog and databases.

How to Search Google Scholar



Use Google Scholar (GS) ( to search for scholarly literature. 



GS indexes many academic resources including books, articles, theses, court opinions from academic publishers, documents from professional organizations, universities and other academic sources. Because GS has a function that allows users to access proprietary databases when used on subscribing campuses, students using GS search across NWC databases and other resources in addition to the World Wide Web all in one place. However, because of NWC network security restrictions, GS can only search NWC resources from the NWC campus.


NOTE: GS will work from off-campus, but items that would normally be available to students on the NWC campus will not be identified as NWC resources and will not be available freely or may require a password. If you are prompted to purchase an item, please contact a Reference Librarian or (if on campus) go to Interlibrary Loan Request to obtain the item via InterLibrary Loan.





Basic Search Options


The basic GS search is similar to a regular Google search. The primary differences are that the search results will include items from NWC resources, and the search results should be from scholarly resources. The basic GS search page is preselected for articles and patents. You may deselect patents. The other basic search option is for legal opinions and journals. Unfortunately, you may not select both articles and legal opinions and journals.



Advanced Search Options


GS advanced search has the same Boolean-like search functions as Google as well as the following options:

  • Author: Limits searches to a particular author. Replicates the Author's Name Function of the basic search. Use quotations when using a full name (“Thomas Friedman”).

  • Publication: Limits searches to items found within a specific publication. Keep in mind that many publication names are commonly abbreviated. When searching within a publication you may want to repeat your search to search the publication’s name as well as its abbreviated title.

  • Date: Will limit searches to a date or date range. Will not return items if Google was not able to determine the date of an item.

  • Collections: You can specify which collections to search including:

    • Articles and Patents: Search articles and/or patents generally or in selected subject areas.

    • Legal Opinions and Journals: Search all legal opinions and journals, only US federal court opinions, or court opinions from specific states.





A typical GS result will show:

  • The title first as a hyperlink to the document with related bibliographic information under the title. A hyperlink directly to the article (often a .pdf) may be located to the right of the article title. This link is often to the same page or document as the link from the title. 
  • At the bottom of the result after a few lines from the document will be links to a list of articles citing the document, articles similar to the document (if available), the vendor of the document, and other links to the same document, if available.
  • You may also see a Resources @ My Library link which facilitates locating the document among the NWC Library resources (when on the NWC campus).
  • For books, you will see a Library Search link which will link to the WorldCat record for the item. WorldCat will show if the NWC carries the book. 




While GS is a powerful and useful tool it does have some limitations and quirks:


1.      Lack of Transparency: Google does not publish what content is indexed by GS and how frequently they index that content. Therefore, search results will not include items from some sources and timeframes. Because GS does not provide information on its resources the end user has no way of knowing what gaps search results may have. These gaps are important if your research must be extremely current.


2.      Incorrect Citation Information: The citation information may be incorrect for various reasons. Quite often the citations do not link to resources that actually cite the original document. 


3.      Lack of Controlled Vocabulary: Articles in scholarly and academic databases are indexed by professionals and assigned descriptive vocabulary so that searchers can find information on specific topics quickly and easily. This vocabulary makes it easy to find articles about a topic rather than articles that only mention a topic. Google rankings help to overcome Google’s lack of controlled vocabulary. When GS returns too large a search result to be manageable, even with advanced search options, the controlled vocabulary offered by databases may make your searching much easier.


4.      Opening Links May Prevent Users From Returning To The Original Search: Links from GS search results often take the user to a resource that will not allow the user to return to the original search by clicking on the back button. When using GS the searcher should always open links by right-clicking on them and then selecting open in new tab or window.

Search Google Scholar