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SOC 200: Introduction to Sociology

Email nicholas.dandrea@pepperdine.edu with any questions, concerns, or comments on the guide

When to Use Google Scholar

Google Scholar v. Academic Databases

What's the difference between Google Scholar and an academic database like JSTOR or Business Source Complete?

Academic databases are searchable collections of published sources that let you know exactly what books, journals, conferences, etc. were used for the content. In many databases, you can easily find a list of publications from which the database is pulling citations; you can tell if you'll be able to find articles from Nature in the database or not. Additionally, academic databases frequently have a subject specific focus and have  extensive options for limiting search results.

Google scholar is also a searchable collection of published sources, but because Google keeps their proprietary information private, they do not share from where they are pulling their content. We don't know exactly where the citations are coming from, what will be included, or what might be missing. Additionally, Google Scholar covers all disciplines and only has a few advanced search options.

Is Google Scholar right for my research?

Google Scholar is good for...

  • Helping a beginning researcher identify journal titles and authors connected with subjects of interest.
  • Finding "gray literature" like conference proceedings. It includes many articles that wouldn't get included in other indexing services.
  • Locating obscure references that are proving difficult to find in conventional databases.
  • Locating more information on partial citations.

Google Scholar cannot...

  • Sort/search by disciplinary field
  • Browse by title
  • Limit search results
  • Search the deep web

Keep in Mind:

  • You may get a long list of results, but you will only have access to the text of articles for which Pepperdine Library has paid subscriptions or that are freely available.
  • Not everything in Google Scholar is scholarly. Google Scholar searches academic websites (.edu) as well as journals and publisher websites. Search results can include PowerPoints, news announcements or unpublished materials as well as articles and books. 
  • Searching in Google Scholar is imprecise when compared with discipline-specific databases.

How to incorporate Google Scholar into your research

Google Scholar searches specifically for scholarly materials such as journal articles, research reports, dissertations and theses, preprints, technical reports, patents, manuscripts in preparation, working papers and many other document types.

When you do a search in Google Scholar, you get a list of citations. You'll get links to the full text in the following cases:

  • If Pepperdine Libraries subscribes to the journal title
  • If it's from an open access journal
  • If the researcher posted the article on her/his website

Google also provides Google Scholar Metrics to help gauge the impact of a particular article or author.

How to Use Google Scholar

Connect Your Account

Google Scholar often prompts you to pay for full text articles. In many cases these articles are freely accessible to Pepperdine students and faculty through one of the Library's many subscription databases or journals. You can use Google Scholar's Library Links feature to identify yourself as a Pepperdine affiliate. This allows you to find full text library resources directly through Google Scholar results.

This is what Google Scholar search results look like when you're off-campus and haven't yet identified yourself as a Pepperdine affiliate:

Example of Google Scholar search for the word marmosets

Setting up you Library Link to Pepperdine:

  • To identify yourself as a Pepperdine affiliate, go to Settings in the hamburger menu at the the top left of the Google Scholar search screen, then select Library links.
  •  Search for Pepperdine and select the "Pepperdine University Libraries - FullText@Pepperdine" checkbox.
  • Make sure this box is checked and click Save.

screenshot of Google Scholar Library Link page with Pepperdine University checked

This is what Google Scholar search results look like once you connect your account to Pepperdine University Libraries:

screenshot of Google Scholar results for search of "algorithmic bias" from a Pepperdine connected account

If you need help locating a particular article that you found through Google Scholar, please Ask a Librarian.

Advanced Use of Google Scholar

From the hamburger menu in the upper left corner of the screen you can access Google Scholar's advanced search features. By clicking on the "advanced search" link, a box will pop up with options that will allow you to refine your search results. With advanced search, you can search by specific phrases, as well as authors and date ranges.

screenshot of advanced search options

Article Specifics

Once you are looking at a single result, there are a few options for using the item. Some of these include:

  • The star feature will allow you to save an article in your library.
  • The quotation marks will give you a generated citation in the 5 most popular styles and options to import to several citation managers.
  • "Cited By" will show you a list of works that cited this article.
  • "Related Articles" will direct you to articles on the same or a similar subject.
  • "FullText@Pepperdine" will direct you to library databases that contain the article