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About Google Scholar at the University Library

Google Scholar

Frequently-Asked Questions

What is Google Scholar?
Google Scholar is the newest offering from Google that searches for scholarly materials such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from broad areas of research. Google Scholar searches a variety of undisclosed academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web. Much of the content is available in full text, while in some instances abstracts with links to pay-for document delivery services are displayed.
Google scholar is useful for working with cited references. Remember cited references make it possible to find works that cite a work that you searched for. Google scholar is still a beta project - so you may encounter inconsistencies or problems in your search.
Who should use Google Scholar?
Google Scholar is likely to be useful for beginning-level researchers who want a few articles on a topic rather than serious scholars who need to do thorough research using a variety of resources. All researchers may find it easier and more direct to locate scholarly journal articles using the resources on our Databases A-Z.
What areas of scholarly research are covered by Google Scholar?
Google Scholar searches a specific subset of Google's index and covers a wide range of academic content areas; however, coverage appears to be strongest in science and technology, and weakest in the humanities. Just as with Google's standard Web Search, Google Scholar ranks and lists results according to how relevant they are to the search query. The most relevant references should theoretically appear at the top of the page.
What does 'Cited by' in Google Scholar mean?
Clicking the 'Cited by' link in Google Scholar will display a list of articles and documents that have cited the document originally retrieved in the search. This makes it possible to uncover other documents that are related by topic or subject to the original document. However, Google Scholar only includes articles that are indexed within its database, and this is a much smaller subset of scholarly articles than found in some other CSUN University Library-subscribed databases.
Once I find an item, where do I get it?
You can find items the University Library owns using Google Scholar's Find Text capabilities. To activate the capabilities for your browser, go to Scholar Preferences:
  1. In the box next to Library Links type "CSUN" and click Find Library.
  2. Check the box next to "CSU, Northridge (SFX Find It)"
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Save Preferences button.
Click SFX: Additional Options or SFX: Find It for access to online full text, University Library holdings information, and Interlibrary Loan.
Alternatively, click the Library Search link to find holdings at another library in your area.
Will Google Scholar let me search within a specific journal or search for articles written by a particular author?
Yes! Use Google Scholar's Advanced Search to search by author, publication, and date. Increase the accuracy and effectiveness of Google Scholar searches by checking out Advanced Scholar Search Tips.

Here are the most common Google Scholar search functions and operators: (content taken from Google Scholar's Advanced Scholar Search Tips )

Author search

Author search is one of the most effective ways to find a specific paper. If you know who wrote the paper you're looking for, you can simply add their last name to your search terms.

For example:
The search [friedman regression] returns papers on the subject of regression written by people named Friedman. If you want to search on an author's full name, or last name and initials, enter the name in quotes: ["jh friedman"].

When a word is both a person's name and a common noun, you might want to use the "author:" operator. This operator only affects the search term that immediately follows it, and there must be no space between "author:" and your search term.

For example:
[author:flowers] returns papers written by people with the name Flowers, whereas [flowers -author:flowers] returns papers about flowers, and ignores papers written by people with the name Flowers (a minus in front of a search term excludes results that contain this search term).

You may use the operator with an author's full name in quotes to further refine your search. Try to use initials rather than full first names, because some sources indexed in Google Scholar only provide the initials.

For example:
To find papers by Donald E. Knuth, you could try [author:"d knuth"], [author:"de knuth"], or [author:"donald e knuth"].

Publication restrict
(This option is only available on the Advanced Scholar Search page.)

A publication-restricted search only returns results with specific words from a specific publication.

For example:
If you want to search the Journal of Finance for articles about mutual funds, you might start like this:


Keep in mind, however, that publication-restricted searches may be incomplete. Google Scholar gathers bibliographical data from many sources, including automatically extracting it from text and citations. This information may be incomplete or even incorrect; many preprints, for instance, don't say where (or even whether) the article was ultimately published.

In general, publication-restricted searches are effective if you're certain of what you're looking for, but they're often narrower than you might expect.

For instance:
You might find that a search across all publications for [mutual funds] gives more useful results than a more specific search for "funds" only in the Journal of Finance.

Finally, bear in mind that one journal can be spelled several ways (e.g., Journal of Biological Chemistry is often abbreviated as J Biol Chem), so you may need to try several spellings of a given publication in order to get complete search results.

Date restrict

(This option is only available on the Advanced Scholar Search page.)

Date-restricted searches can be effective when you're looking for the latest developments in a given area.

For example:
Here's how you'd search for articles on superconducting films that were published since 2004:


Bear in mind, however, that some web sources don't include publication dates, and a date-restricted search will not return articles for which Google Scholar was unable to determine a date of publication. So if you're sure that an article about superconducting films came out this year and a date-restricted search doesn't find it, retry the search without the date restriction.

Other Operators

Google Scholar also supports most of the advanced operators in Google web search:

  • the "+" operator makes sure your results include common words, letters or numbers that Google's search technology generally ignores, as in [+de knuth];
  • the "-" operator excludes all results that include this search term, as in [flowers -author:flowers];
  • phrase search only returns results that include this exact phrase, as in ["as you like it"];
  • the "OR" operator returns results that include either of your search terms, as in [stock call OR put];
  • the "intitle:" operator as in [intitle:mars] only returns results that include your search term in the document's title.
Why do some titles have links to abstracts and/or full text and others do not?
Search results may include citations [CITATION], books [BOOK], PDFs [PDF] and PostScript documents [PS]. PDF and PostScript documents will have clickable title links that point to abstracts or full text, but citations and books will not.

Learn More

You can find more information about Google Scholar at the following links:

  • About Google Scholar and FAQ
  • Carol Tenopir, "Google in the Academic Library," Library Journal, February 2005, Vol. 130 Issue 2, p.32.
  • Brian Kenney, "Googlizers vs. Resistors," Library Journal, December 2004, Vol. 129, Issue 20, p.44-46.
  • Shirl Kennedy and Gary Price, "Web Search--Google Big News: 'Google Scholar' is Born,", Thursday, November 18, 2004.
  • Barbara Quint, "Google Scholar Focuses on Research-Quality Content," Information Today, Inc., November 22, 2004.
  • Danny Sullivan, "Google Scholar Offers Access to Academic Information," SearchEngineWatch, November 18, 2004.