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Comparing Search Pathways

Why are there so many places to search? An overview of the differences between the most common search platforms.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is designed to search for scholarly literature/information across various disciplines and sources. Google Scholar returns results from publisher and institutional sites, but there is no editorial oversight of the results.

When should I use Google Scholar?

Google Scholar search results include journal articles, books, and grey literature (e.g. conference papers, theses, government reports and statistics). Google Scholar is an excellent tool for supplementing your research. It can be used as a starting point for your research to explore a broad overview of scholarly information on your topic.   

Google Scholar features include:

  • A simple search interface
    It's easy to search for scholarly literature using simple keyword searches 

  • How many times a work has been cited and by whom
    This helps you gauge the relevance of an article, discover articles related to your search, and broaden your research perspective. 

  • Direct access to free online resources
    Google Scholar may return multiple versions of the same article/resource: the preprint version may be freely accessible on university repository or a platform like arXiv, bioRxiv, Social Science Research Network (SSRN). The published version is often behind a paywall or require a subscription to access.

  • Links to full text via Find it @ Unimelb
    If UniMelb library subscribes to the journal or resource, setting up Find it @ Unimelb or LibKey Nomad in Google Scholar results will give you quick access to the full text.
    If the item is unavailable at the UniMelb library, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.

Tips for using Google Scholar

What won’t Google Scholar find?

It’s important to use a range of search tools, as Google Scholar does not include all the scholarly literature in your subject area.  

  • Google Scholar search results cannot be effectively filtered  
    Google Scholar’s search filters cannot be customised as precisely as search results in library databases. While Google Scholar can filter results by relevance or date, library databases will allow you to filter by specific subject, content type, and peer-review. Google Scholar is not an appropriate place for conducting in-depth research, literature reviews or any type of searching that requires systematic or rigorous searching. 

  • You might be missing out on content 
    Google Scholar search results don’t include everything. Some subject areas or geographic areas have very low representation, and some scholarly resources are only discoverable in library catalogues, specialised collections and subject-specific databases. Proprietary information, such as company and industry information is often not publicly shared. The library provides access to some of these reports via the company and industry research databases. 

  • Your algorithm may be prioritising certain content types 
    Google stores data about your search habits and location, which influences which pages are shown at the top of your search results. Consider whether your search results are biased. 

  • Evaluate what you find 
    Not all resources in Google Scholar are appropriate for your research, so consider whether the resource is reliable and scholarly.


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