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Google Scholar: Information for Librarians

This guide lays out the benefits and limitations of Google Scholar, with sections geared toward faculty, students, graduate students, and librarians and is designed for reuse at PALNI schools.

Recommended PALNI-Wide Settings

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Google Scholar can provide links to your library’s resources once you have configured your Google Scholar settings for your link resolver. Using OCLC’s instructions make sure you fill in the library’s contact information, the library’s display name in Google Scholar, what text you will use for the full text link, and your library’s link resolver base URL. Select “Yes” for IP Required and fill in your on campus IP ranges. Example: 159.242.*.* = -

Once a library has registered their holdings and their IP addresses, patrons can access library resources that appear in Google Scholar while on campus through the library’s resolver link, which will appear in Google Scholar after the library has registered their holdings. Off campus library users can also access library resources through the library’s resolver link and your library’s authentication system once they configure their Google Scholar settings.

You can find more information on how Google Scholar uses your electronic holdings and IP ranges to enable Library Links for your patrons on their Library Questions page.

Additional Authentication Option

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Google provides the Campus Activated Subscriber Access (CASA) service so patrons who use Google Scholar independent of the library's website will be directed to the library's subscriptions that are available to them. Once the patron accesses one of these providers from on campus, Google Scholar creates a token so the patron's device will be recognized by their institution's affiliation for up to 30 days while off-campus.

Pros and Cons to Using Google Scholar

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  • Easy to use, similar features of Google web search
  • Large index, estimates at 160 million documents (plus or minus 10%)
  • “Cited by” feature allows for searching and browsing of works which cite the original entry
  • Includes technical reports, preprints, societal publications, Institutional Repository sources
  • Full text access and purchase options for sources
  • Researcher profiles with author contact information


  • “Black box” product with a proprietary ranking algorithm, no API options, and no traditional tech support
  • Frequent mistakes in the metadata, with no ability to contact support to correct
  • Limited advanced search features
  • Institutional Repository sources are sometimes hidden
  • Weak grey literature and systematic review coverage
  • Missing full text access, or only purchase options for sources
  • English language bias

What Does it Actually Cover?

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A 2017 systematic review of studies investigating Google Scholar’s coverage of journal articles and citations found Google Scholar’s content coverage to be comparable with most academic subscription index databases. Two areas where Google Scholar was missing was in grey literature and institutional repositories. A study on Google Scholar and grey literature (documents not published commercially, including theses, reports, conference papers, government information, and poster sessions) found major gaps and concluded Scholar not as a stand alone alternative. Studies on Scholar and institutional repositories found major gaps in IR holdings and Scholar results.

History of Google Scholar

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Google Scholar launched on November 18, 2004 by engineers Anurag Acharya and Alex Verstak as a web search for relevant scholarly materials. In the first several years of its service, the Google Scholar team led by Acharya persuaded many academic publishers to allow Google to crawl their journals, most notably Elsevier in 2007, American Chemical Society shortly after this. Judicial case law sources from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts became available in Scholar in 2009. ProQuest and Gale indexes were added to Scholar in 2015.

Although Google will not publicly share the size of Scholar’s index, A 2014 study estimates its size at 160 million documents. A small team, which in 2014 was nine, develops and maintains Scholar. Major enhancements include related articles (2006), public researcher profiles (2012), metrics (2013), and query suggestions (2016). Significant enhancements were made to the user interface in 2017.