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COMM_ST_102: Public Speaking (Lee): Google Scholar Search Tips

What's in Google Scholar?

Google Scholar searches for scholarly literature across disciplines. It includes journal papers, conference papers, technical reports, or their drafts, dissertations, pre-prints, post-prints, and abstracts. Scholarly documents larger that 5mb are available in Google Books, but are indexed in Google Scholar. Visit the Google Inclusion info page below for details on how authors, university repositories, and journal publishers get their content indexed in Google Scholar.

Please note that not all of Northwestern Libraries' licensed content is available via Google Scholar. We recommend using library databases for more comprehensive and precise searches. 

Pros and Cons of Google Scholar

PROS:

  • Vast collection of materials means you'll get a broad look at scholarship in certain areas.
  • View lots of different types of content in one place.
  • It's a familiar interface with library link buttons that will connect you to licensed library resources.
  • Easily track down citations.

CONS

  • The amount of content that is indexed can lead to imprecise search results.
  • No controlled subject vocabulary
  • You cannot narrow by discipline.
  • Minimal limiting options. (i.e. you cannot limit by peer-reviewed articles, format, location, or language)

Advanced Searching

To do advanced searching in Google, you can alter your search terms and syntax, and you can also utilize their Advanced Searching option. On the left side of the page, click on the three lines (known as a hamburger menu). Select Advanced Search.

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That will open a new window on the main Google Scholar page that will allow you to search by author, title, date range, and more.

 

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Searching Tips

1. Avoid filler words.

  • As with all database searching, avoid adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and any other terms that are not considered your key words (i.e. essential to your search)

2. Use quotation marks, OR and -

  • Google automatically places AND in between each word, so there's no need to use AND as a Boolean operator.
  • Use OR to search for two words right next to each other (Google doesn't recognize parenthesis). It must be completely capitalized.
  • NOT is replaced with a minus sign in Google. It must be placed directly before each word you want to exclude. (EX: "social media" -Twitter -Snapchat)
  • Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases.

3. Narrow your search with author or title operators

  • For title searches, use "intitle:" 
  • For author searches, use "author:", plus your keywords. (EX: Twitter author:Hodges)

4. Google doesn't use truncation operators, so you'll need to get specific.

  • Truncation is when you search for the root of a word using a symbol. For example, in many databases, searching environment* would display results for environments, environmental, environmentalism. Google automatically searches the word you typed in, as well as similar words. If you need to search for a specific form of a word, use Boolean operators to specify the words you want to search.