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Humanities, Education and Gaelic

Google Scholar

Google Scholar Search

Should I be using Google Scholar?

Although we recommend using the university search tools like Library Search, we know that some students and staff often use Google Scholar instead. This page highlights when you might want to use Google Scholar and also what you might be missing by not using university services and collections as well.

When using Google Scholar, it is helpful to keep these questions in mind:

  • What features does it have to help me get relevant results?
  • What does this tool do well?
  • What does it do poorly?

As a research tool, Google Scholar is good for many tasks, and not as good for others. When deciding whether to use Google Scholar or one of the library's collections, please keep the following in mind:

Google Scholar is good for...

  • Identifying journal titles and authors connected with subjects of interest.
  • Finding "grey literature" like conference proceedings. It includes many articles that wouldn't get included in other indexing services.
  • Locating obscure references that are proving difficult to find in conventional collections.
  • Accessing a variety of content in a single search.
  • Locating more information on partial citations.

Google Scholar cannot...

  • Sort/search by disciplinary field
  • Browse by title
  • Limit search results

Issues to consider:

  • You may get a long list of results, but you will only have access to the content that the library has paid subscriptions for, or that are freely available.
  • Google Scholar searches academic websites (.edu or as well as journals and publisher websites. Search results can include powerpoint presentations, news announcements or unpublished materials as well as articles and books. 
  • It is difficult to determine with 100% accuracy everything that Google Scholar searches. Therefore, we do not know the breadth of what Google Scholar is indexing and consequently cannot judge the comprehensiveness or completeness of the results of a literature search.
  • We cannot tell how frequently items in Google Scholar are updated.
  • Searching in Google Scholar is imprecise when compared with discipline-specific collections.

Discipline specific collections subscribed to by the university can be accessed at:

Getting Started

Before starting to use Google Scholar, it is worth checking your settings to ensure you will get the best possible experience. The results list can be setup to highlight when the university has full-text access to an article. When using Google Scholar on campus the full-text links should appear automatically. If you are using a computer in your home, or anywhere else off-campus, you will have to setup the feature using these quick steps:

1. Change your settings by clicking "Setting" (the gear icon Gear Icon ) near the top of the Google Scholar search page.

2. On the settings screen, select "Library Links". In the search box type "University of the Highlands and islands" and then click the search icon.

3. Select the checkbox next to "University of the Highlands and islands - Full Text @ UHI Library" then click Save.

4. When you search in Google Scholar, you will see "Full Text @ UHI Library" next to the results to indicate that the university has full-text access to the article.

Please note

  • If you clear out the cookies in your web-browser, you will have to repeat these steps in the settings menu afterwards.
  • Due to the way content is indexed, it is unlikely that all articles and content subscribed to by the university will be listed in Google Scholar results.
  • If you experience difficulties setting up the library links or accessing subscribed articles, please open a ticket on the Unidesk Self-service Portal

Further tips

Not finding what you want?

Try some of these:

  • Only use first initials when searching for author names. Many articles only include the first initial of the author.
  • Abbreviations of journal names are often used, e.g. J Biol Chem rather than Journal of Biological Chemistry.
  • Keep in mind that Google Scholar gathers bibliographical data from text and citations, including pre-prints, which may include incomplete information. Often, when searching in Google Scholar less is more.
  • Use Advanced Search to give Google more specific information about what you hope to find


The content of this guide was adapted from one originally produced by Royal Holloway (University of London) with their prior consent.