Skip to Main Content

Information Essentials: Web search: Google Scholar

Should I use a web search for my assignment?

Web searching is a great place to start when doing research for your assignment as it offers a diverse collection of information on various topics, you get quick and immediate results, and it's helpful to gain background information on your topic.

While web searching is an excellent starting point, it's important to remember that not all information on the web is reliable or accurate. As you delve deeper into your research, it's crucial to evaluate and verify the credibility of the sources you find, especially when working on academic assignments. So, use web searching as a springboard, but always strive to complement it with more specialised and reputable sources, such as scholarly databases and library resources, to ensure the reliability and depth of your research.

Web search engines are automated systems designed to locate material on the Web. They do not use human editors to vet sources (as do library databases), and are limited to material found on the open Web.

Are they the same as a Library?

No, they're not. There are two main differences between a Library system, and a Search engine: Authority and Access.

  1. Authority: A Search engine trawls the open Web, and so you'll find information from numerous sources (expert and amateur), whereas a Library consists of curated collections of materials that better reflect quality information;

  2. Access: Search engines only search the open Web (Web Crawlers are excluded from indexing proprietary, Deep Web sources), this is a very broad search, but not so deep a level of material Library databases pay subscription to.

If you imagine: Library systems introduce you to good quality friends at a small party, Search engines allow you to speak to anyone off the street. This does not mean you cannot find good quality friends off the street, but you're more likely to find good conversation at a party!

What are Web Search Engines Good for?

Library databases are best to use if you're looking for specialist, peer-reviewed, scholarly information. However, these sources may not reflect current industry practices. Web Search engines are better for less expert, but more up-to-date material.


Google Scholar is Google's search engine for scholarly published works. Common sources that you can find through Google Scholar are journal articles, conference papers, technical reports and more (Google Scholar, n.d.).  

Google Scholar uses an automated system (search robots) to identify and index information that fulfils its criteria to be scholarly works. This means it can pick up information that is identifiable as a scholarly work on the internet. However, it may not pick up everything (or might lose things) in its results if they don’t fulfil the search robot’s criteria.

Using Google Scholar

Google scholar works the same as a normal Google search.

When searching Google Scholar your results will appear based on relevance first. You can change this to be sorted by publication date using the filters.

Google Scholar doesn't come with a list of filters as you would find on a database or catalogue but rather relies on search filter commands that you can put into your search string. A list of search operators and filter commands can be found on their Refine Web Searches page.

Here are some useful filters that you can use: 

Function Usage Examples
allintitle: Only searches the title for keywords

allintitle:Marine biochemistry

  • Will only return articles with Marine AND Biochemistry in its title
site: Searches for a particular website or type of URL.

  • Only returns results from .gov websites

  • Only returns results from
author: Searches for a particular author. You will need to add "author:" to every word. Or use the Advanced Search function.

author:SE author:Lam 

  • Looks for author S.E. Lam
filetype: Searches for results of a certain filetype


  • Only returns PDF files. 
  • Will also result in inaccessible files from publishers. 
Source: Searches the source information. You can use this to search for results from certain Journals or Publishers

source:"Taylor & Francis"

  • Returns results that are from the publisher Taylor & Francis

source:"Journal of Applied Ecology"

  • Returns results that are from the Journal of Applied Ecology

You can also apply all of these filters through Google Scholar Advanced Search. This is available through the menu on the left side. 

See also: Search Engines and Library Databases: Google Scholar

Accessing Resources

As Google Scholar looks through the internet to find scholarly works it will bring up results that you won't necessarily have access to. Scholarly works are mostly produced through publications that require payment or subscriptions to access. As you do have some access through institution memberships such as ECU via the library you can add Library Links to show you what articles are found in our catalogue.

Set your Preferences in Google Scholar to set up the  Find It@ECU link to full text available via ECU Library. This link will let you navigate to an accessible copy of articles found on Google Scholar. 

You can do this by:

  • Click on the Preferences link above OR look for Library Links in left hand side bar
  • Type in Edith Cowan University
  • Click on Find Library > then Save Preferences

Related Content