What is Google Scholar? How to use the academic database for research

  • Google Scholar is a searchable database of scholarly literature.
  • It connects users with studies and journal articles on almost any topic of interest.
  • Not all articles are free – you may need a subscription to read full versions.

Created in 2004, Google Scholar is a massive database of scholarly literature that allows users to access information, cross-reference it with other sources, and keep abreast of new research as it is published.

Using Google Scholar, you can access these types of sources:

  • Newspapers
  • Conference documents
  • Academic books
  • Pre-impressions
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Summaries
  • Technical reports

Here’s everything you need to know about the powerful search tool.

How to use Google Scholar

Anyone can access the research database. And while it’s designed for college or graduate students and other academics – to help those who write academic papers more easily create bibliographies – anyone can benefit from it.

On the Google Scholar home page, you can search by “articles” or “Case law”.

Grace Eliza Goodwin / Insider

Here are some examples of what you can do through Google Scholar:

  • Create alerts. You can build a research library around a topic of interest, like global warming, and create alerts for it so you’re always up to date on the latest research.
  • Discover related works. You can learn more about a complex subject that interests you, such as studying in the field of astronomy, by exploring related citations, authors and publications.
  • See the References section. Accessing the References section of an article can help you broaden your search to see what sources an author has used for their article.
  • Save articles to your library. Saving your research in your Google Scholar library allows you to organize and track your favorite results.
  • Export of quotes. You can export a full article citation in your preferred format using the “Bibliography Manager” section.

Access to information

Google Scholar is free to use as a research tool. However, since it pulls information from many other databases, some of the results you pull may require a connection (or even payment) to access the full information.


Quick advice: If an item is free depends on various factors such as the publication and its funding agency mandates. Go to Public Access Google Scholar profile section to view its terms of reference – if a free version is available, you will see an HTML or PDF link on the right side.

However, descriptions or summaries are usually free and provide an overview of the content of the article.

What is Google Scholar?  How to use the academic database for research
Articles and books that are not free will always provide a summary or description.

Grace Eliza Goodwin / Insider

Research tips and best practices

What is Google Scholar?  How to use the academic database for research
You can sort by date on the left side of the page.

Will Fischer / Insider

  • Sort your searches by date (or specify a start date) to find the most recent and relevant data.
  • Watch out for keywords “All versions”, “related articles” and “cited by” to include free versions of articles in your search results; you should look for PDF files and library publications.
  • Consult the references of an article to better understand a subject.

Overall, Google Scholar offers a great avenue in academic research, and although it has its drawbacks, it is a tool that can be used to help clarify, explore, and educate users on a wide variety of topics. .

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