Help Students Find Trustworthy Sources using Google Scholar


Google Scholar is one of the most useful but often overlooked research and academic tools available to students online. Looking and feeling very similar to the Google Search we all know and love, Google Scholar focuses on returning reputable results from ‘scholarly’ sources and texts. This academic emphasis on trustworthy sources is an important distinction for young digital citizens to understand, and take advantage of.

Google ScholarName: Google Scholar –
Pricing: Free
Compatibility: Web
Access: No signup required
Privacy: Customizable (privacy policy)


A Quick Look

This video created by Penn State University Library shows how Google Scholar can be used to search scholarly resources as well as link results to library access links.


In Practice

1. Search skills

Introducing students to Google Scholar is in itself a very valuable lesson. Helping students see that there are a variety of different tools available to them (with both online and offline results) when researching a topic will help them in every area of their study. Try using the advanced Google Scholar search field (click the small arrow in the search field) to highlight different search criteria and discuss the contrasting search results.

Google Scholar Advanced Search

2. Referencing and citations

A big part of writing and researching from scholarly texts is ensuring facts and figures are correctly referenced and cited. One great advantage of using Google Scholar is that these citations are automatically generated in MLA, APA and Chicago format. Rather than encouraging students to blindly copy these references, use this as a discussion point to talk over correct citation and its value in formal writing.

3. Set an alert

If students are working on a long term project or are looking for information that is still quite new, information on the topic may still be emerging. Try setting up alerts on Google Scholar so that any time a certain keyword is referenced in a text, an email notification is sent to notify that new search results are now available.

4. Inline research

Many schools are now using Google Apps for Education, meaning that student are often using Google Docs to create a lot of their work. One lesser known feature of Google Docs is the integration of search facilities, most notably Google Scholar. By clicking “Research” in the Tools menu, students can use Search inside their document to find trustworthy and relevant information.

5. Comparing search results

The distinction between trustworthy and untrustworthy sources can be a blurry one for students who are unfamiliar with academic writing. Try using Google Scholar as a stepping stone to help your students understand the different benefits of various search tools. Choose a topic and try a variety search engines to investigate the topic (Google, Bing, Google Scholar, Google Books, WolframAlpha). Then ask your students to compare the quality, reliability and accuracy of the different results.



Links and Next Steps


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, COD Newsroom.

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