March 21, 2011

Google Scholar & You

Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about Google Scholar. I often get asked what I think about Google Scholar, so I wrote a post on my library's blog in response -- and have referred several students to it. I figured it was worth sharing with the wider community, so here it is again, in slightly modified form.

Q. What is Google Scholar?
A. Google search for scholarly articles, books, theses on a variety of topics, heavy on science & social science. Good for international materials.

Q. What do you think about Google Scholar?
  • easy to search
  • quick
  • good for citation searching (who's cited this article)
  • good coverage for international / non-English topics


  • can be hard to track down full-text of articles (see below).
  • no clear description of scope or scale of their holdings (are they a science search engine? social science? what neuroscience journals are included? how far back is the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience indexed?)
  • full-text may be from author's website -- which might or might not be the same as the published version
  • some metadata is wacky, leading to incorrect citations (see Peter Jacso's 2009 article on "ghost authors")

Q. How do I get full-text of articles I find through Google Scholar?
A. This is a huge question -- and it's easier to answer for the UNC community than for scholars at large. For UNC, use this link for Google Scholar and look for the "find article @ UNC" link to the right of the search results. UNC Library staff have activated "Find @ UNC" within Google Scholar to facilitate easy access to content available at UNC.

If you're not at UNC, but you are affiliated with a university, check Google Scholar Library Links page -- it's possible that your library has set up a linking system similar to what the good folks at UNC have done.

If you're not affiliated with a university, you may be asked to pay for an article you discover with Google Scholar. Check with your public library to see if they will request articles for you via Interlibrary Loan.

Q. What is "Find @ UNC"?
A. Links article metadata to article full-text if available through any UNC-licensed databases (using the OpenURL standard). If the article is in a 2008 issue of Journal of Communication, "Find @ UNC" knows that we have that issue available online through the publisher.

Q. Hey, that doesn't work for me!
A. It won't if you're off-campus and don't have the magic URL. If you have a UNC ONYEN, are off-campus, and want to use Google Scholar, use this link:

Q. Hmmm. I don't want to rely on Google Scholar so much. What else can I do?
A. The UNC community has many reliable, scholarly search engines for just about every topic. Those are listed on the Park Library home page. Your state library probably has some excellent academic search engines -- see what NC Live offers to North Carolina residents with a library card; Connecticut residents should check out

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