How do I use Google Scholar to find scholarly articles that I can
access for free?

New! Learn how to find free, full-text articles with Google Scholar in a simple video tutorial!

Google Scholar is a specialized search engine which looks much like Google web search, but searches only for scholarly articles and books. The search results list from a Google Scholar search will list citations for articles, and may provide links to free or fee-based full-text articles. Sometimes, a link to find the full-text article using D'Amour Library subscriptions will appear in a citation as well; this feature is only available when searching Google Scholar from the campus network of Western New England University.

Google Scholar has the benefit of a familar interface. If you can search Google, you can probably search Google Scholar (though there are some techniques, described below, which may greatly improve your search results). Google Scholar covers many academic disciplines, from medicine to sociology to history. However, Google Scholar does not include as many resources as the article databases Western New England University students can access for free through the D'Amour Library web site. You might search your topic and only find a few articles, when you could have found many more by searching in a library database. So Google Scholar might be a good place to start a journal article search, but for more advanced or comprehensive research, a subject-specific library database might be a better resource. (See How do I find an article on a topic?)

Read more about Google Scholar on the Google web site.

Search Technique

You can search Google Scholar just as you would search regular Google, but you may find simple keyword searches to be insufficient for your quest to find journal articles that fit your topic, thesis, or research question. Luckily, Google Scholar allows for advanced search options to tailor your search. However, you won't have as many search limiting options as you would in a traditional library database.

Phrase search: as in regular Google, you can enclose a phrase in quotation marks to indicate that you only want to search for those words together, in that order. For example: "world war I" or "united states" or "Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura"

Title search: use the operator "intitle:" to search for your keywords only in the title of the article. For example, intitle:ethnography will search for articles that have the word ethnography in the title (otherwise, Google Scholar looks for the word anywhere in the citation).

Author search: use the operator "author:" to search for an author by name. For example, author:"smith ja" searches for an author with the last name Smith, and the initials J.A.

Advanced search: click on the link to the advanced search screen to get more search-limiting options.

Google Scholar Advanced Search

Here you can search by author, publication date or journal title, or limit your search to a particular subject area.

Find more detailed instruction on these search tips and more at Google Scholar Advanced Search Tips.

Search Results

Your search results will appear in the form of a list of citations. Citations will be listed in relevance-ranked order, just like regular Google search results. This differs from the chronological ordering that most academic databases use.

In blue, you'll see the title of the article. Below it, in green, you'll see publication information, including the journal name, date, and publisher. Authors' names may also be listed. Click on the article title to see more information about the article, such as full publication information and possibly an abstract, but be aware that you might not get to see the full text of the article here. The link will most likely take you to the publisher's web site, or to a public article database like PubMed.

Some citations that appear in your search results may include a link to "Full-Text @ WNEC" right next to the article title:

sample Google Scholar citation with link to Full-Text @ WNEC

This link indicates that D'Amour Library provides full-text, electronic access to this journal. Click the link to get to the full article.

Other citations many instead include a link on the last line that reads "Resources @ WNEC."

sample Google Scholar citation with link to Resources @ WNEC

This link allows you to search D'Amour Library's Journals A-Z; it doesn't guarantee full-text access, but it could lead to it. And even if D'Amour Library doesn't have the article you need, you'll get to a link to request the article through interlibrary loan.

Another option for searching for full-text access is to select the link "Web Search." Be aware that it is rare to find free, full-text, scholarly articles online without going though a library; you may, however, find full-text access for a fee here.

Some additional advice:

  • If you find the results in Google Scholar to be too wide-ranging, off-topic, or just too few, you may be better off searching a subject-specific library database. For a list of such databases, see Databases by Subject. For assistance with searching in these databases, see How do I find an article on a topic?
  • For more detailed and interactive instruction on article searching, go to the ResearchPath tutorial.
  • For one-on-one help with article searching, Ask a Librarian.

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D'Amour Library, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01119
Phone: (413) 782-1535
Fax: (413) 796-2011