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Screen shot of Google Scholar

This blog post will introduce you to Google Scholar and show you how to use it more effectively to help you in your research process.  Read on to learn why Google Scholar should be used to compliment not replace SDSU’s research Databases!

What is Google Scholar?
According to Google, “Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research.”

What are the drawbacks of Google Scholar?

  • Google Scholar searches only a small amount of the articles available in SDSU’s research databases.
  • Be aware, Google Scholar searches both peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed information.
  • Google Scholar returns results that require you to pay for full text of the articles.
    • However, if you search for the same topic or specific article through the library you often have full text access through the library, and if not, you are able to request the full text of the article through Interlibrary Loan free of charge (more info on ILL here).  
  • There is no way to limit to only peer reviewed articles or only full text articles like there is in many of the more robust library research databases.

For these reasons, Google Scholar should be used to compliment not replace SDSU’s research Databases!

What are the benefits of Google Scholar?

  • Google Scholar, like Google, uses natural language which is easier to search than the more complex searching rules required by library research databases.
  • Google Scholar provides a wide range of interdisciplinary results.
  • Google Scholar also provides links to articles that are “Cited By” and “Related Articles.”
    • The “Cited By” feature allows you to look at articles that have cited the article you found. This helps your research process because it links to other articles that have commented on the original article you found, giving you a better understanding of how relevant and reliable that original article is to your research subject.

When Should I use Google Scholar?

  • You are new to the research process and would benefit from using more natural language to search.
  • It is early in your research process, and you can benefit from the wide range of disciplines Google Scholar searches.
  • You need background information on your topic and/or need help narrowing down your topic before diving into the library’s databases. 
  • You need help brainstorming keywords and phrases to use when you search in the library’s research databases. 
  • You want to check out what other articles have cited an article that you have found particularly helpful to your research project.

How Can I Get the most of Google Scholar?

The first thing you should do to be an effective Google Scholar searcher is set your preferences so that Google Scholar works with SDSU’s library to determine if and where SDSU has full text access to the articles you find.  To do this you must do the following:

  • Click on Settings in the upper right hand corner.
  • Click on  the 'Library Links' section on the left hand side of the settings screen.
  • Type in San Diego State University in the Library Links option. Then select the box next to SDSU.
  • Click Save in the upper or lower portion of the page.
  • Start searching with links to your library's resources.  When you find an article that looks helpful, click on SDSU SFX link on the right hand side of the search results.  This will then search the library’s resources for full text access and return a screen that shows you what databases have access to this article or if the library has a copy in print.  If we don’t own the article, there will be a link to Interlibrary Loan so that you can request that article free of charge.  If you are off campus, you will have to authenticate yourself using your Library pin and Red ID.

You can search by author, publication, date, legal opinion, journal title, and more.  Most of these advanced features must be used under the advanced search screen, found by clicking the Advance Scholar Search next to the Search button on the Google Scholar home screen.  Here is a link to the Google Scholar Advanced Search Tips to help you build more complex searches.

I found a great article on Google Scholar but there is no full text, or it costs money, now what?

If you found an article on Google Scholar that you want access to, you should search for this article using the library’s Articles & Journals page. Use the box titled, Find a specific article from the citation, the second box down on that page.  Input the Journal Title and Year to find out if and where the library has access to this article.

If the library has online access to this article, it will be returned here and you will go into a database to access the full text of that article. Sometimes, you are taken into the full text of the journal, but not to the specific article. If that is the case, you will need to use the citation information including the volume, issue and year to find the correct issue you need to get the article you want.

If the library has this article in print, it will tell you where in the library this item is located, and the call number for that journal.   If the article is from 1986 & newer it will be located on the 1st Floor in the Current Periodicals and Microform Center (CPMC). If the article is from 1985 & older it will be on the 5th Floor of Love Library.  There is a help desk in the CPMC if you have trouble locating your newer article.  Also, be aware that some of the most recent items are kept behind the desk and must be checked out from the desk.  Further, some of the articles are stored in microform or microfilm and must be used in conjunction with a reader.  There are readers with printers for those types resources in CPMC and those working at the CPMC desk can assist you with finding the film and using the readers.

If the library does not have full text access to your article, you can request this article using Interlibrary Loan (ILL). You will need to make an ILL account, separate from your Red ID and Library PIN, but this service is free of charge.  Find out more information on ILL here.

If you have questions with any of the steps in this process, stop by the reference desk and a reference librarian will happily teach you how to find that article you are looking for!

Author: Brittany Cronin, questions: bcronin@rohan.sdsu.edu