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VAN 495: Research Methods in Counselling: Google Scholar

Advantages and disadvantages

Google Scholar understands natural language, the way you normally think, talk, write, and speak, better than any commercial database. It is an extremely powerful tool that is useful in several situations:

  • at the beginning of your search, if you aren't sure where to start and want to see what's available;
  • at the end of your search, to find out who has cited the best articles on your topic; or
  • if your search concepts are not captured very well in the indexes of scholarly databases.

The massive size of Google Scholar can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, since it is difficult to narrow results down to the most relevant content.

The order of results for Google products are also based in part on popularity. This often works quite well but can mean that the article you need to see will be buried somewhere on the 70th page of results.

Advanced searching

To access the Advanced Search options in Google Scholar, click the little arrow at the right of the search bar.

Citation chasing

An excellent use for Google Scholar is citation chasing. You have likely already used reference lists of articles and book chapters to find more information on your topic. You'll use Google Scholar to chase citations in the other direction -- checking who has cited your article since it was published.

In the Advanced Search screen, enter title and author information as shown below.

example of google scholar article search

Click the Cited by link to see articles that have cited yours.

google scholar cited by

Other tips

You may also used the advanced function to search for your key terms only in the title of your article, and to return results published within a certain time period. This can help you find results that are more relevant and useful.

You can use some of the same keyword tools that you used in scholarly databases. However, Google Scholar does not recognize truncation. Instead, it searches automatically for the word you typed, plus any alternate endings or close synonyms.