These are the best of times for students. With so many online resources, writing academic essays, school assignments, terms papers and even research projects are now easier. And Google Scholar(link) is one of the best online resources out there.
With these online tools, it is possible to write out an entire project without using the good old fashion library. They are that good.
But it is one thing knowing about them and it is an entirely different thing knowing how to use them effectively.
Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you won’t approach school assignments or papers with trepidation. Google Scholar and other similar tools made everything easier.
What is Google Scholar?
You must have it this phrase, ‘Google is your friend‘ countless times. But most times, it is used in reference to common everyday search. Hardly anybody thinks of Google Scholar in that reference.
For a student or a researcher, here is a modification of that phrase to fit your situation, ‘Google Scholar is your best friend.‘
Google Scholar was launched about 13 years. Since the beginning, the objectives were lofty: to make it easier for people to access accurate scientific knowledge.
Since that humble beginning, it has grown to cover all fields of knowledge; not just science-based works. Like all things from Google, the company poured in enormous resources to make sure users got the best.
Though Google has not revealed any figures, independent researchers claim the database contains almost 200 million documents comprising academic journals, books, conference papers, theses, dissertation, abstracts, scholarly literature, and technical reports in various fields.
Another report claims that almost 90% of all articles published in English are captured in the Google Scholar’s database.
All these are available to researchers free of charge. The only thing standing between you and all that information is your ability to use it effectively.
Choosing a topic for your research
Sometimes, as a student, you’d find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to choose a topic for yourself. It happens a lot.
The research supervisor simply gives a general area of interest. The student is left to generate a topic.
Many students find that daunting. Once again, there are several online tools to make that job easier. One of the best is this one.
There, you would be taken by the hands and shown how to create a good topic for your research. If that is not good enough, a simple search with the right keywords would show you other alternative online tools for creating a topic.
Using Google Scholar
1. Go to your device and open Scholar.Google.Com
2. To make sure you have access to most of Google Scholar’s services, sign into Google Scholar’s using your Gmail. If you don’t have a Gmail, you can create one easily; it is free.
3. In the search box in Google Scholar page, type in your search item. Make sure all the keywords of your search item are there.
Then hit the ‘enter’ button or click on the search button at the end of the search bar.
4. Because of Google Scholar’s huge data base, you can restrict your search to documents you want by clicking on the circular button at the bottom of the search bar.
You have two choices, ‘Articles’ and ‘Legal Documents.’ Tick the ‘Legal Documents‘ button if you are doing legal research. All other documents can be found in ‘Articles.’
5. Hitting the search button or ‘enter’ key would bring up hundreds of search results related to your keywords.
This is where it gets interesting. To get the most relevant results, focus on the titles, publication date and website.
Search results from domains ending with .edu should be given priority. These are mostly academic sites with no interest in financial gains.
The dates are important as you don’t want to read old and outdated materials.
6. After selecting the search results that look promising, you can click on it to see the full text. If the text doesn’t work for you, you can always go back and click on the next promising site until you get what you need.
It is possible to get more than one website with useful material.
7. Some sites may not give access to the full material unless you logged in with an account linked to an institution or recognized public library.
In a case like this, you might be given the option of paying to get the full text. Or you can click on ‘All versions’ to get similar documents from unrestricted websites.
Organizing your references using Google Scholar
The references and bibliography of any academic work are very important. Google Scholar can help you organize your references in quick time.
At the bottom of each search result, ‘Citation‘ is highlighted with a number showing the number of articles cited.
Clicking this link would show a box with all the works cited. And even better, the cited works are arranged properly different formats (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc). Just copy and paste to a word editor the ones relevant to your work.
Better search results with Boolean search strategy
Learning how to use the Boolean strategy while using Google Scholar for your research can make a lot of difference. This method though can also be applied to other search engines to produce more precise search results.
This method uses what are called Boolean connectors to make connections between search terms. The most famous of them are simple connective words like ‘AND‘, ‘OR ‘, ‘NOT‘ etc.
For instance, typing ‘OR‘ in capital letters between search terms (e.g smoking OR lungs) would bring out all results for both search terms.
While typing ‘Smoking AND lungs’ would show all results for both smoking and lungs that appear at the same time.
But if you want to eliminate or restrict your search result to just smoking, typing ‘Smoking NOT lungs’ would exclude anything about lungs in the search results.
Boolean connectors can seem confusing at first. But just a few hours of practice can set you on the right track.
This website is a good resource too for any student wishing to master the art of effective online research using boolean operators.
Writing your research
It is assumed you know how to write that is why you are here. However, many students choose the option of copying what they read and presenting it as their work.
That is plagiarism. And it is dishonest.
To avoid plagiarism, try as much as possible to write everything in your own words. There is no one-rule-fit-all way of writing.
Everybody has a unique style. So write the whole project the way you feel comfortable in.
To make sure no part of your work fails the plagiarism test, there are many online tools like this one, to help you check what part of your work is plagiarized.
Just copy portions of your work and paste it in the box provided. Hit the check button. It takes only a few seconds to come up with a result.
If any part is highlighted as plagiarized, you have to make the necessary corrections.
Tools like that can also help you check simple grammar errors and even suggest corrections for you.
There you have it, with Google Scholar, a few tricks, and other simple-to-use online tools, acing your essays, term papers and projects just got easier.