How to perfect Google Scholar Searches

Google Scholar

With November nearing its end, essay season is drawing closer for university students. While there’s no quick fix for struggling writers – and certainly no substitute for great ideas and intriguing arguments – there are plenty of tools available to help everyone write better papers. One tool in particular should be in every researcher’s toolkit.

When it comes to searching library catalogues and academic databases, there is a learning curve. Although librarians and researchers are familiar with the AU, TI, and SU fields, you might mistake these for elements in the Periodic Table. It’s no surprise that students these days prefer to “Google it” – Google’s web search is easy to use, recognizes questions asked in plain language, and its PageRank system moves the most relevant links towards the top of the first page.

However, Google searches can cause problems. Google’s standard web search can lead writers toward sources of questionable value or – even worse – worthless and unusable sources masquerading as legitimate research. Enter Google Scholar, Google’s product for academic researchers. Those who have tried it know that Google Scholar generates pages of hits with links to academic books and scholarly articles. Some of these sources will even offer direct links to PDFs!

This is just scratching the surface. While Google Scholar is filled with features designed specifically for students and instructors, one simple tweak will unlock its full potential. The true capabilities of Google Scholar are revealed when you set it to work alongside your existing university library catalogue.

The power of Library Links

For students working to a deadline, a search catalogue is only useful when it generates direct links to complete books and articles. In that regard, Google Scholar might seem underwhelming at first. Some searches are rife with PDFs but most will turn up only two or three direct links per page. Here’s how to get more direct links out of Google Scholar:


  1. Open and find Settings in the menu in the top left (with the gear icon). Then click “Library links.”
  2. You’ll see a familiar search box here, and you can ‘Show library access links’ for up to five libraries. Although UNYP’s own ProQuest catalogue is not linked here, the SUNY Empire State College catalogue is – so search for that and add it to your library links. Type “SUNY Empire State” and check the box to add the “SUNY EMPIRE STATE COLLEGE - ProQuest Fulltext” entry.


That’s all you need to do! With the ProQuest database added to your Google Scholar search, you should now notice that “ProQuest Fulltext” will appear on the right side of the page for many articles that did not previously offer PDF links. Please note that these ProQuest links will only work if you are connected to the university network.

However, there is no substitute for academic rigor, no matter how much information you have at your fingertips. Students still need to use their best judgment when sifting their way through sources. This is especially true when Google Scholar offers a wealth of additional entries in the “Related articles” and “Cited by” links that appear below every hit.

If you start to feel overwhelmed by the number of resources available online, it’s even more important to visit the UNYP Library on the 1st floor for additional guidance and research suggestions. We wish everyone all the best with their essays and research and we hope that you find your topics engaging, your arguments persuasive, and your sentences succinct.

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