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Google Scholar: Basic Information

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.

About Google Scholar

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Google Scholar is a specialized Google search which allows you to narrow to scholarly literature, including articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions. Some of these sources are available freely on the internet, while others are available through library databases and interlibrary loan.  There are benefits and drawbacks to using Google Scholar.  


  • Ease and effectiveness of searching
  • Looks and functions like a normal Google search
  • Broad index coverage of sources and full text accessibility
  • Features like citation analysis tools and researcher profiles


  • Proprietary ranking system
  • No traditional tech support
  • Bibliographic/citation information is often incorrect
  • Lack of advanced search features
  • Weak in results for locally developed collections, grey literature, and systematic reviews
  • Strong English language bias

Google Scholar embedded search box

Anatomy of a Google Scholar Result

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My library

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My library is a feature in Google Scholar that allows you to save articles from your search results for reading, printing, or citing at a later time. It works with any existing Google account, so you don’t have to create or maintain another login. (If you have multiple Google accounts, you’ll want to pay attention to which account is signed in when you save articles!)

While you are viewing search results and signed into your Google account, just click the star under the article you’d like to save. It will turn dark blue. Once you’ve saved a few articles, you can click the “My library” link in the upper right hand corner of the screen to view them in a list.  You can search the list or label them with a topic or assignment.

Google Scholar versus Library Databases


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Google Scholar

Library Image

Library Databases

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Google Scholar says it contains “articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.”

There is no comprehensive list available of what is actually indexed.
Includes scholarly, newspaper, and magazine articles, books, book chapters, theses, and other sources.

Has clearly defined lists of materials available; is easy to see what sources you are searching.

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Searching is free.

Some articles have freely available full text, many more do not.  Often, you will end up at a publisher’s website who would like to charge you for the article. (Don’t pay, articles can be obtained through interlibrary loan.)

Your library pays for access to the databases, many of which have full text and all of which can be requested via interlibrary loan.