Before beginning an academic or research paper, it is advisable to find an adequate number of sources. While many colleges offer institutional databases for research, many students are faced with several hours searching through library books. While I would never condemn time spent in a library, physically searching through books for research materials can be time-consuming, inefficient, and often frustrating.
You often can't find what you need, the library doesn't have it, or you might find one or two sources when you need five. I have recently stumbled upon Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a great way to search books, journal articles, dissertations, and other sources for what you are researching.
What is Google Scholar?
Google Scholar, scholar.google.com, has been around since November 2004. Its slogan, "stand on the shoulders of giants," refers to the ability to use other people's papers and research, properly cited of course, in your own work. Using the usual Google or Yahoo search engines don't necessarily mean that you will find quality material for your research.
Google Scholar is different. It provides a way to research across many different disciplines, sources, and study areas. Available sources include peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles. Available sources come from peer-reviewed journals, academic publishers, universities, and many others. Google Scholar continues to incorporate more material, and it is expanding to also include sources in different languages.
Why is Google Scholar a Better Search Tool?
If you have ever used a university or institutional database, Google Scholar is very similar. You type in some keywords about whatever you are researching, and the database will search for your keywords. Although similar, Google is better than a regular database in many ways. One of the most important ways, to a researcher at least, is that Google has the capacity to search a greater number of sources. Institutional databases are usually limited to the journals your university pays for.
Google allows you to search many different journals, free and for a fee, that usually go beyond the access of your university. Although many sites do not allow access to an entire article without a fee, they usually provide you with an abstract, a list of key words, and some might allow access to the first section of an article.
Tips and Tools for Efficient Researching
Having access to a vast number of sources is a great research tool, but it won't help you if you don't research efficiently. Having a solid topic will help you choose good keywords. You need to make sure your topic is as specific as you can get. Once you have your topic, make a list of keywords related to your topic. The more specific your topic, the more specific your keywords will be. Articles are about specific things, and if you don't make sure your topic and keywords are precise, it will take forever to sift through articles that aren't related to your topic. Once you have your topic and list of keywords, it is time to start researching.
On the Google Scholar site, enter your keywords into the search bar. You can use the advanced options for more efficient researching. The advanced options will allow you to choose the type of source, the publication date, and other options that will narrow your search results. If you don't get what you are looking for in your first search, don't worry. Even if you are researching efficiently, research takes time. If you exhausted your list of keywords, and you still haven't found what you need, think of some more keywords. Sometimes it helps if you take some keywords from articles that may be related to your topic, but aren't exactly what you need.
If you feel that you have exhausted every keyword that you could think of, and you still haven't found adequate sources, you may need to revise your topic. Revising your topic and starting over isn't the end of the world. This will often make your academic paper more original, and more interesting.