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How to Use the Library's Databases

Google Scholar vs. Library Databases

So how is Google Scholar different from library databases?

Unlike Google Scholar, traditional library databases allow you to:

  • focus based on a subject area
  • sort results based on relevance, date published, and by type of material (book, academic journal article, newspaper article, etc.)
  • utilize Boolean operators to search more specifically for your topic

When to use Google Scholar

  • when you have tried traditional library databases and have come up empty
  • when you aren't sure the exact search terms you would use
    • because Google Scholar uses semantic search, it will help lead you to synonymous terms easily
  • to expand your search results using Citation Chasing

Tips for Using Google Scholar

  • There can be more than one version of an article online—make sure you use the most recent one (with all the final edits).
  • Don't pay for an article or book. The library has ways to get them for you for free, either through one of our databases or through Interlibrary Loan.
  • You will need to evaluate the resource more extensively when using Google Scholar than a traditional library database:
    • Is the author an expert in the field?
    • Was it published in a peer-reviewed journal or is it a paper written by an undergraduate student from another college?
    • Is it an up-to-date resource? Does it provide the latest information on the topic?

Citation Chasing

This is singularly one of the best ways to use Google Scholar:

  1. Identify  a scholarly article from a library database that is relevant and useful to your research
  2. Copy the title of the article from Step 1 into Google Scholar in quotation marks. This should bring up the article as the top search result.
  3. Looking at the record in Google Scholar, there should be a link that reads "Cited by #":
  4. Click on that and then bring up all of the articles that have cited this material. Obviously, if the article is really new, you won't be able to find anything, but if it's been around since 2015 or before, you might end up finding the perfect thing.
  5. Browse through the titles in this list, or select the checkbox "Search within citing articles" to limit your results some.