Google Scholar - Tip sheet

What is Google Scholar?

Google Scholar is a specialist search engine that searches across a variety of scholarly literature. When using Google Scholar it is possible to find resources from a variety of sources including:

  • academic publishers
  • professional organisations
  • university repositories
  • professional websites.

Why use Google Scholar?

Google Scholar can be particularly beneficial when used in combination with discipline specific databases and repositories. Google Scholar can be useful for:

  • finding grey literature which might not be indexed in databases or other locations
  • quickly searching for suggested articles with limited details (i.e. only an author's name or part of the title of the article)
  • exploring materials not held by QUT so that they can be requested, if they look promising
  • finding theses and other non-published research held in institutional repositories.

Google Scholar is also useful because:

  • like Google, it is easy to use
  • Google Scholar Advanced Search can search for keywords within the title or within the body of the article and allows results to be limited by date range, author or publication
  • it is possible to create a list of citations and articles to follow up on later using 'My library'.

Google Scholar is also be useful for finding related works. When searching for a key discipline related article using Google Scholar, click the 'cited by' link to see all articles indexed in Google Scholar that cite the paper. Additionally, click the 'related articles' link to view articles on similar topics. This functionality may be useful for expanding your literature review and discussing the impact of key resources.

Google Scholar can also be useful for articles in Open Access repositories (such as QUT ePrints) via the 'all versions' link. This feature is particularly helpful if QUT does not have access to the article in question.

Limitations of Google Scholar

While Google Scholar is a useful tool, it is generally less efficient and less effective than using a discipline specific database. For example, when searching for keywords, results cannot be limited to certain fields (e.g. searching the abstract field for keywords). In addition, Google Scholar has significantly fewer limiters than most databases (e.g. limiting results by format or peer-review) and does not utilise controlled vocabulary subject headings.

This means that there will likely be many pages of results of which many will be irrelevant.

Additionally, Google does not provide a definition of what constitutes a 'scholarly' resource for indexing on Google Scholar. As a result, the quality of materials found via Google Scholar varies greatly, so it is important to critically evaluate the appropriateness and usefulness of the materials found when searching.

For best results, use Google Scholar in conjunction with discipline specific databases.

Searching via Google Scholar

Google Scholar shares some operators used in academic databases, but also has some that differ, for example:

Search operators

Phrase searching

As with many academic databases, double quotation marks are used for phrase searching, e.g. "social media".


Google Scholar automatically adds AND between every word, phrase and parentheses unless another operator is used.


OR works in the same way as it does in academic databases.


Google Scholar does not use NOT. Instead, adding a '-' sign before a term will remove it from the search results e.g. '"social media" -Twitter' would remove results that contained Twitter.


Using AROUND(number) works as a proximity search, allowing users to specify how far apart keywords should be within the articles. This helps weed out false positive results that may contain the desired keywords but not in a closely related, relevant way. For example "social media" AROUND(5) Twitter would search for "social media" and Twitter within 5 words of one another, resulting in more relevant results.


Google Scholar does not utilise truncation symbols (*), instead it uses automatic stemming. Automatic stemming identifies the 'root' of the keywords used and automatically searches for any additional letters or 'stems'.

For example the keyword 'search' also retrieves "searcher", "searching, "searches", "searchable" which may be useful, but the keyword 'psychology' would not retrieve related keywords such as "psychologist", "psychological" or "psychologist" as these synonyms do not contain the stem word 'psychology'. It is important to note that stemming only works when 'complete words' i.e. 'psychologist' rather than "psycholo" are searched for.

Stemming can be turned off by putting a '+' symbol in front of keywords.


Google will often search for synonyms, however the results it finds may not always be useful. Keep this in mind when crafting search statements. It is possible to eliminate unhelpful synonyms using the '-' symbol as described above.

Google Scholar Advanced Search

Use the Google Scholar Advanced Search tool to create targeted searches. Google Scholar Advanced Search allows for the use of many useful limiters and operators discussed above in an easy to fill out, checkbox-style format.

For example, phrase searching can be achieved by typing a keyword into the 'with the exact phrase' box and keywords can be excluded from the results by typing them into the 'without the words' box.

It is possible to choose to search for keywords within the article itself or just the title by selecting the appropriate option under 'where my words occur'.

Using the 'return articles dated between' function limiting of articles by date range. This is particularly useful for finding recent articles and removing older results, ensuring the resulting resources are current.

Of particular note is the ability to search within publications using the 'return articles published in' box. Enter the name of a relevant journal to search for keywords within that journal. This box can also be used to search for theses by entering PhD or MPhil into the 'return articles published in' box.

Google Scholar - Useful features

Access QUT journal holdings via Google Scholar

Many of the articles returned by Google Scholar will be accessible via subscription only. However, it is possible to set QUT as your home institution via Google Scholar's settings so that if QUT has access to a full-text version of the article can be access through the Google Scholar interface.

When on campus and logged into a QUT computer, this feature of Google Scholar will be automatically set up. However, if you are studying off campus, simply:

  1. Click the settings button at the top left of the screen to access the settings menu.
  2. Click 'settings' at the bottom of the menu.
  3. Click 'library links'.
  4. Search for 'Queensland University of Technology' and then check the box that appears next to 'Queensland University of Technology - 'Fulltext@QUT' and click 'save'. You will need to log in using your QUT credentials to follow the full text link.

Using 'My library'

When logged into a Google account, you can save articles found on Google Scholar to 'My library'.

Simply click the star icon for the search result you'd like to send to 'My library'.

Articles stored in 'My library' can be accessed via the My Library button at the top left corner of the page.

It's possible to create labels within libraries and arrange resources under these labels to keep them organised:

  • While in My Library, click 'Manage labels…'
  • Click 'Create a new label', choose a name for the label and click 'Create'
  • You can now apply this label to items in your library.

Google Scholar Citations

Google Scholar Citations allow authors create a profile to help them track citations on their articles. Using this feature, you will be able to see who is citing your work and where. If you make your author profile public, it will also appear in Google Scholar search results when your name is searched.

User profile details can be updated by clicking My profile at the top of the page.


Google Scholar allows for the creation of alerts in two ways:

  1. Search Google Scholar and then click the 'create alert' link under the limiters on the left of the page, or
  2. Create an alert via the menu at the top left of the page and then 'click alerts'. Sign into a Google account and then click 'create alert'. Enter the alert query and then click 'create alert'.

Google Scholar and EndNote

Google Scholar allows references to be exported to EndNote.

Exporting single references

  1. Navigate to 'Settings' via the menu in the top left corner of the page.
  2. Under the 'Bibliography manager' heading, select 'Show links to import into …', select EndNote from the drop down menu and click save.
  3. Now when searches are performed, search results will have an 'Import to EndNote' option.

Exporting multiple references

  1. Log into a Google account.
  2. Search Google Scholar and click the star symbol at the bottom of the desired references to send them to 'Your library'.
  3. Navigate to My Library via the menu at the top left of the page.
  4. Check the box next to the references to be exported and then click the export menu button at the top of the page and then choose EndNote.
  5. Open the resulting file to add the exported references to an EndNote library.

For further assistance contact your Liaison Librarian.