Is Google Scholar fully fledged database?

Lot of professors and lectures suggest students to use only databases for searching academic papers, because they are sure that databases are only reliable academic literature sources. They don’t accept overall web search engines, because information that can be found there is not scientific only, however, the most popular web search engine Google has special search section for academic literature – Google Scholar. Is it as good as any academic database or that is just narrower version of whole search engine?

By definition Google Scholar is a search engine of full text or abstract of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats, not an academic database. Despite that, in Google Scholar it is possible to find academic journals, articles, conference materials, technical reports etc. This search engine consists of more than 200 millions academic documents from witch at least 85% is in English language. So there is a pretty big possibility to find some good academic literature on any topic.

As it is not an academic database there is no charge for usage of it. Anyone can use Google Scholar for fee, which is a huge benefit comparing to real databases. If university doesn’t have subscription of many useful databases, than Google Scholar is a great option.

Google Scholar also has more developed ranking system. Most of the databases offer to rank by one criterion, for example key words, author, publication date etc., Google Scholar has combined ranking algorithm that allows finding the most suitable documents by many criteria. That means user of this search engine can save a lot of time on literature selection, because the first results are usually the most suitable.

So by all that we can say Google Scholar is at least as good as any academic database. Some searchers even claim that, in terms of amount of documents, it can be compared to the most popular databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, EBSCO etc. So if the Google Scholar has so many benefits, why professors and lectures don’t want students to use it?

The main reason it that this search engine can’t provide quality, only quantity. They try to get articles from as many journals as possible, so they don’t sort them. By using Google Scholar you might get some unscientific information. These pseudo-science journals prevent Google Scholar to become reliable academic database.

So in the conclusion we can say that Google Scholar is not fully fledged database, but it can be used for academic works. If you are able to evaluate all search results and distinguish reliable literature sources form unreliable, then there shouldn’t be any problems with search results.

How to find full texts in academic databases?

When it comes to using academic databases, for many students and researchers one of the biggest struggles is to find the full texts in them. If you are not subscriber of the specific academic database, there are only few documents you can read so it is a very common situation when you find an abstract that fits perfectly to your theme, but there is no full text available in the library of the database. So here are some useful tips, what to do in this kind of situation?

If you’re a student, you must have accesses to university databases. Every university is a subscriber of most popular academic databases, so there is a huge chance that you can find the documents you need in one of those. In some cases only professors and lecturers have accesses to them, but then you can ask them for a help. If your university doesn’t subscribe any useful database, then try to find some help from other university students. Usually bigger universities have access to more good databases, so if you know someone from bigger university, don’t hesitate to ask for a help.

If you are not a student and also don’t know any students or lectures that might help you, try some other methods. For example sign up for a demo version of a database. Most of the databases offer this chance to introduce the potential users of their offer. There is not 100% chance that you will get the document you need this way, but you should definitely try.

Another method is just to Google the key words or specific title of the document. This also won’t work in any situation, but there is quite a big chance you will get what you need. This is a good way, how you can try to find specific document, because you can check a lot of databases through Google and there is a chance, in one of these databases the full text will be available. If there is at least one database in which full text is free, you will definitely find it using Google.

You can try also some underdog methods. For example, if the documents’ author is not a huge authority and if the document is written lately, there is also a chance to contact the author himself. If the author will be interested in your thesis and you will write a good motivation letter, he might help you.

If none of the previous methods is working, your only reasonable chance is to buy the document. Some databases don’t sell single documents, only subscriptions, so that might be too expensive, but check if it is possible to buy single document in other databases. If it is possible to buy just the one document you need, maybe it’s worth it.

So, if you use these methods, you should find any document you need from the academic databases. IF none of this is working, unfortunately you will have to pay for a subscription or manage without the documents from databases.