scholar google com essay

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What is Google Scholar and how do I use it?

  • Google Scholar

A Quick Look at Google Scholar

What is google scholar.

Google Scholar is a Web search engine that specifically searches scholarly literature and academic resources.

But my teacher said not to use Google! How is "Google Scholar" different from "Google"?

Google searches public Web content. Your teacher says "Don't use Google," meaning that you should not use the public Web content.

Google Scholar is different. It searches the same kinds of scholarly books, articles, and documents that you search in the Library's catalog and databases. The scholarly, authoritative focus of Google Scholar distinguishes it from ordinary Google.

So how is Google Scholar related to (and different from) the Library's databases?

There is overlap between the content in Google Scholar and the Library's individual databases. Also, many citations in Google Scholar will link to full text in the Library's databases or in publicly available databases. But Google Scholar will not contain everything that is in the Library's databases.

Google Scholar can be a convenient starting place, but it is not a comprehensive "one-stop shop." For more precise searching, more search features, and more content, use the Library's individual databases .

How do I search and view items in Google Scholar?

Searching is as easy as searching in regular Google. Start from the Library's Homepage to search SHSU's Google Scholar. Click on the Articles & More tab and locate the Google Scholar search box at the very bottom. Enter a search term or phrase, such as "bird flu."

Like regular Google, Google Scholar returns the most relevant results first, based on an item's full text, author, source, and the number of times it has been cited in other sources. Some actions are a little different from regular Google: clicking on a title may only take you to a citation or description, rather than to the full document itself. Google Scholar will not necessarily get you to the full text of every search result.

How do I find the full-text documents in my search results?

To find the full document, look for (1) a PDF or HTML link to the right of the article title, or (2) an Online Resources @ SHSU link. These links will help you find the full text of the document, either in a publicly available place or in one of the online databases offered by SHSU.

If you don't see these links or they don't take you to the full text, you can contact the Library Service Desk for help in finding the article. Some documents will be unavailable online, but they may be available in the library building or through Interlibrary Loan .

screenshot of Google Scholar search results

A final word of wisdom...

Keep in mind that Google Scholar is not perfect . For more precise searching, more search features, and more content, check out the Library's individual databases and online catalog .

What is Google Scholar? How to use the academic database for research

  • Google Scholar is a searchable database of scholarly literature.
  • It connects users with studies and journal articles on nearly any topic of interest.
  • Not all articles are free — you might need a membership to read the full versions.

Established in 2004, Google Scholar is a massive database of scholarly literature that allows users to access information, cross reference it with other sources, and keep up with new research as it comes out.

Using Google Scholar, you can access these kinds of sources:

  • Conference papers
  • Academic books
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Technical reports

Here's everything you need to know about the powerful research tool.

How to use Google Scholar

Anyone can access the search database. And while it's built with college or grad students and other academics in mind — to help those writing academic papers create bibliographies more easily — anyone can reap its benefits.

Here are just a few examples of what you can do through Google Scholar: 

  • Create alerts. You can create a library of research around a topic of interest, like global warming, and create alerts for it so that you're always up-to-date on the latest research.
  • Explore related works. You can gain deeper knowledge around a complicated topic that you're interested in, like studies in the field of astronomy, by exploring related citations, authors, and publications.
  • Check out the References section. Accessing an article's References section can help you branch out your research to see what sources an author used for their paper. 
  • Save articles to your library. Saving your searches to your Google Scholar library helps you organize and keep track of your favorite results. 
  • Citation export. You can export an article's full citation in your preferred format using the "Bibliography Manager" section. 

Accessing information 

Google Scholar is free to use as a search tool. However, since it pulls information from many other databases, it's possible that some of the results you pull up will require a login (or even payment) to access the full information.

Still, descriptions or abstracts are typically free and provide an overview of what's contained within the article. 

Overall, Google Scholar provides an excellent avenue into scholarly research, and while it does have its drawbacks, it's a tool that can be used to help clarify, explore and inform users about a wide variety of topics.

scholar google com essay

On February 28, Axel Springer, Business Insider's parent company, joined 31 other media groups and filed a $2.3 billion suit against Google in Dutch court, alleging losses suffered due to the company's advertising practices.

scholar google com essay

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18 Google Scholar tips all students should know

Dec 13, 2022

[[read-time]] min read

Think of this guide as your personal research assistant.

Molly McHugh-Johnson headshot

“It’s hard to pick your favorite kid,” Anurag Acharya says when I ask him to talk about a favorite Google Scholar feature he’s worked on. “I work on product, engineering, operations, partnerships,” he says. He’s been doing it for 18 years, which as of this month, happens to be how long Google Scholar has been around.

Google Scholar is also one of Google’s longest-running services. The comprehensive database of research papers, legal cases and other scholarly publications was the fourth Search service Google launched, Anurag says. In honor of this very important tool’s 18th anniversary, I asked Anurag to share 18 things you can do in Google Scholar that you might have missed.

1. Copy article citations in the style of your choice.

With a simple click of the cite button (which sits below an article entry), Google Scholar will give you a ready-to-use citation for the article in five styles, including APA, MLA and Chicago. You can select and copy the one you prefer.

2. Dig deeper with related searches.

Google Scholar’s related searches can help you pinpoint your research; you’ll see them show up on a page in between article results. Anurag describes it like this: You start with a big topic — like “cancer” — and follow up with a related search like “lung cancer” or “colon cancer” to explore specific kinds of cancer.

A Google Scholar search results page for “cancer.” After four search results, there is a section of Related searches, including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, cancer chemotherapy and ovarian cancer.

Related searches can help you find what you’re looking for.

3. And don’t miss the related articles.

This is another great way to find more papers similar to one you found helpful — you can find this link right below an entry.

4. Read the papers you find.

Scholarly articles have long been available only by subscription. To keep you from having to log in every time you see a paper you’re interested in, Scholar works with libraries and publishers worldwide to integrate their subscriptions directly into its search results. Look for a link marked [PDF] or [HTML]. This also includes preprints and other free-to-read versions of papers.

5. Access Google Scholar tools from anywhere on the web with the Scholar Button browser extension.

The Scholar Button browser extension is sort of like a mini version of Scholar that can move around the web with you. If you’re searching for something, hitting the extension icon will show you studies about that topic, and if you’re reading a study, you can hit that same button to find a version you read, create a citation or to save it to your Scholar library.

A screenshot of a Google Search results landing page, with the Scholar Button extension clicked. The user has searched for “breast cancer” within Google Search; that term is also searched in the Google Scholar extension. The extension shows three relevant articles from Google Scholar.

Install the Scholar Button Chrome browser extension to access Google Scholar from anywhere on the web.

6. Learn more about authors through Scholar profiles.

There are many times when you’ll want to know more about the researchers behind the ideas you’re looking into. You can do this by clicking on an author’s name when it’s hyperlinked in a search result. You’ll find all of their work as well as co-authors, articles they’re cited in and so on. You can also follow authors from their Scholar profile to get email updates about their work, or about when and where their work is cited.

7. Easily find topic experts.

One last thing about author profiles: If there are topics listed below an author’s name on their profile, you can click on these areas of expertise and you’ll see a page of more authors who are researching and publishing on these topics, too.

8. Search for court opinions with the “Case law” button.

Scholar is the largest free database of U.S. court opinions. When you search for something using Google Scholar, you can select the “Case law” button below the search box to see legal cases your keywords are referenced in. You can read the opinions and a summary of what they established.

9. See how those court opinions have been cited.

If you want to better understand the impact of a particular piece of case law, you can select “How Cited,” which is below an entry, to see how and where the document has been cited. For example, here is the How Cited page for Marbury v. Madison , a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established that courts can strike down unconstitutional laws or statutes.

10. Understand how a legal opinion depends on another.

When you’re looking at how case laws are cited within Google Scholar, click on “Cited by” and check out the horizontal bars next to the different results. They indicate how relevant the cited opinion is in the court decision it’s cited within. You will see zero, one, two or three bars before each result. Those bars indicate the extent to which the new opinion depends on and refers to the cited case.

A screenshot of the “Cited by” page for U.S. Supreme Court case New York Times Company v. Sullivan. The Cited by page shows four different cases; two of them have three bars filled in, indicating they rely heavily on New York Times Company v. Sullivan; the other two cases only have one bar filled in, indicating less reliance on New York Times Company v. Sullivan.

In the Cited by page for New York Times Company v. Sullivan, court cases with three bars next to their name heavily reference the original case. One bar indicates less reliance.

11. Sign up for Google Scholar alerts.

Want to stay up to date on a specific topic? Create an alert for a Google Scholar search for your topics and you’ll get email updates similar to Google Search alerts. Another way to keep up with research in your area is to follow new articles by leading researchers. Go to their profiles and click “Follow.” If you’re a junior grad student, you may consider following articles related to your advisor’s research topics, for instance.

12. Save interesting articles to your library.

It’s easy to go down fascinating rabbit hole after rabbit hole in Google Scholar. Don’t lose track of your research and use the save option that pops up under search results so articles will be in your library for later reading.

13. Keep your library organized with labels.

Labels aren’t only for Gmail! You can create labels within your Google Scholar library so you can keep your research organized. Click on “My library,” and then the “Manage labels…” option to create a new label.

14. If you’re a researcher, share your research with all your colleagues.

Many research funding agencies around the world now mandate that funded articles should become publicly free to read within a year of publication — or sooner. Scholar profiles list such articles to help researchers keep track of them and open up access to ones that are still locked down. That means you can immediately see what is currently available from researchers you’re interested in and how many of their papers will soon be publicly free to read.

15. Look through Scholar’s annual top publications and papers.

Every year, Google Scholar releases the top publications based on the most-cited papers. That list (available in 11 languages) will also take you to each publication’s top papers — this takes into account the “h index,” which measures how much impact an article has had. It’s an excellent place to start a research journey as well as get an idea about the ideas and discoveries researchers are currently focused on.

16. Get even more specific with Advanced Search.

Click on the hamburger icon on the upper left-hand corner and select Advanced Search to fine-tune your queries. For example, articles with exact words or a particular phrase in the title or articles from a particular journal and so on.

17. Find extra help on Google Scholar’s help page.

It might sound obvious, but there’s a wealth of useful information to be found here — like how often the database is updated, tips on formatting searches and how you can use your library subscriptions when you’re off-campus (looking at you, college students!). Oh, and you’ll even learn the origin of that quote on Google Scholar’s home page.

The Google Scholar home page. The quote at the bottom reads: “Stand on the shoulders of giants.”

18. Keep up with Google Scholar news.

Don’t forget to check out the Google Scholar blog for updates on new features and tips for using this tool even better.

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Using Google for Research

  • Google Search
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What is Google Scholar?

Google Scholar searches for scholarly literature in a simple, familiar way. You can search across many disciplines and sources at once to find articles, books, theses, court opinions, and content from academic publishers, professional societies, some academic web sites, and more. See the Google Scholar inclusion guidelines for more about what’s in Google Scholar.

Advanced Search Tips

For more precise searching, use Google's  Advanced Scholar Search Page

  • To pull up the Advanced Scholar Search menu, go to the regular Google Scholar search page.
  • In the upper left corner of the page, press the button made of three horizontal lines to open a new menu. 
  • Advanced Search should be the second to last option in the newly-opened menu.

Or, try these tips:

Find content by an author:.

  • Add the author's name to the search, or
  • Use the "author:" operator (eg. aphasia author:jones finds articles about aphasia written by people named Jones)

Search for a phrase:

  • Use "quotation marks" to find phrases (eg. "allegory of the cave" plato republic finds articles about Plato's cave allegory in The Republic )

Search by words in the title:

  • Use the "intitle:" operator (eg. intitle:fellini finds articles with Fellini in the title]

Setting "Library Links" Preferences in Google Scholar

1. go to , and click on the menu button (3 horizontal bars) in the upper left-hand corner of the screen..

Screenshot of Google Scholar search interface showing location of menu button.

2. In the menu that appears, click "Settings"

Screenshot of Google Scholar menu showing location of Settings link.

3. Click "Library links" in the left-hand menu. 

Screenshot of Google Scholar Settings showing location of Library Links link.

4. Search for NYU, and select only  "New York University Libraries - GetIt@NYU" then click "Save".

Screenshot of Library Links search box showing a search for NYU, and only the box next to "New York University Libraries Getit@NYU" is checked.

5. Conduct a new search in Google Scholar. Click the "GetIt@NYU" link next to each search result to get NYU Libraries-subscribed access to the article. If you are off campus, you will be prompted to log in with your NetID and password before being granted access to the full-text.

Screenshot of Google Scholar search results page showing that Getit@NYU links now appear next to each result.

6. If you encounter a search result without a "GetIt@NYU" link next to it, try clicking on the "double arrow" button below it, and the link should appear.

Screenshot of a single Google Scholar search result showing location of double-arrow button.

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Google Scholar Search Strategies

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Google Scholar Search

Using Google Scholar for Research

Google Scholar is a powerful tool for researchers and students alike to access peer-reviewed papers. With Scholar, you are able to not only search for an article, author or journal of interest, you can also save and organize these articles, create email alerts, export citations and more. Below you will find some basic search tips that will prove useful.

This page also includes information on Google Scholar Library - a resource that allows you to save, organize and manage citations - as well as information on citing a paper on Google Scholar.

Search Tips

  • Locate Full Text
  • Sort by Date
  • Related Articles
  • Court Opinions
  • Email Alerts
  • Advanced Search

Abstracts are freely available for most of the articles and UMass Lowell holds many subscriptions to journals and online resources. The first step is make sure you are affiliated with the UML Library on and off campus by Managing your Settings, under Library Links. 

When searching in Google Scholar here are a few things to try to get full text:

  • click a library link, e.g., "Full-text @ UML Library", to the right of the search result;
  • click a link labeled [PDF] to the right of the search result;
  • click "All versions" under the search result and check out the alternative sources;
  • click "More" under the search result to see if there's an option for full-text;
  • click "Related articles" or "Cited by" under the search result to explore similar articles.

google scholar result page

Your search results are normally sorted by relevance, not by date. To find newer articles, try the following options in the left sidebar:

date range menu

  • click "Sort by date" to show just the new additions, sorted by date;  If you use this feature a lot, you may also find it useful to setup email alerts to have new results automatically sent to you.
  • click the envelope icon to have new results periodically delivered by email.

Note: On smaller screens that don't show the sidebar, these options are available in the dropdown menu labeled "Any time" right below the search button .

The Related Articles option under the search result can be a useful tool when performing research on a specific topic. 

google scholar results page

After clicking you will see articles from the same authors and with the same keywords.

court opinions dropdown

You can select the jurisdiction from either the search results page or the home page as well; simply click "select courts". You can also refine your search by state courts or federal courts. 

To quickly search a frequently used selection of courts, bookmark a search results page with the desired selection. 

 How do I sign up for email alerts?

Do a search for the topic of interest, e.g., "M Theory"; click the envelope icon in the sidebar of the search  results page; enter your email address, and click " Create alert ". Google will periodically email you newly published papers that match your search criteria. You can use any email address for this; it does not need to be a Google Account. 

If you want to get alerts from new articles published in a specific journal; type in the name of this journal in the search bar and create an alert like you would a keyword. 

How do I get notified of new papers published by my colleagues, advisors or professors?

alert settings

First, do a search for your their name, and see if they have a Citations profile. If they do, click on it, and click the "Follow new articles" link in the right sidebar under the search box.

If they don't have a profile, do a search by author, e.g., [author:s-hawking], and click on the mighty envelope in the left sidebar of the search results page. If you find that several different people share the same name, you may need to add co-author names or topical keywords to limit results to the author you wish to follow.

How do I change my alerts?

If you created alerts using a Google account, you can manage them all on the "Alerts" page . 

alert settings menu

From here you can create, edit or delete alerts. Select cancel under the actions column to unsubscribe from an alert. 

scholar google com essay

This will pop-open the advanced search menu

scholar google com essay

Here you can search specific words/phrases as well as for author, title and journal. You can also limit your search results by date.

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A Scholar's Guide to Google

  • Google Scholar
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Using Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a special version of Google specially designed for searching scholarly literature. It covers peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research.

A Harvard ID and PIN are required for Google Scholar in order to access the full text of books, journal articles, etc. provided by licensed resources to which Harvard subscribes. Indviduals outside of Harvard may access Google Scholar directly at , but they will not have access to the full text of articles provided by Harvard Library E-Resources .

Browsing Search Results

The following screenshots illustrate some of the features that accompany individual records in Google Scholar's results lists.

Find It@Harvard – Locates an electronic version of the work (when available) through Harvard's subscription library resources. If no electronic full text is available, a link to the appropriate HOLLIS Catalog record is provided for alternative formats.

Group of – Finds other articles included in this group of scholarly works, possibly preliminary, which you may be able to access. Examples include preprints, abstracts, conference papers or other adaptations.

Cited By – Identifies other papers that have cited articles in the group.

Related Articles - The list of related articles is ranked primarily by how similar these articles are to the original result, but also takes into account the relevance of each paper. Finding sets of related papers and books is often a great way for novices to get acquainted with a topic.

Cached - The "Cached" link is the snapshot that Google took of the page when they crawled the web. The page may have changed since that time and the cached page may reference images which are no longer available.

Web Search – Searches for information on the Web about this work using the Google search engine.

BL Direct – Purchase the full text of the article through the British Library. Once transferred into BL Direct, users can also link to the full collection of The British Library document supply content. Prices for the service are expressed in British pounds. Abstracts for some documents are provided.

The Advanced Search feature in Google Scholar allows researchers to limit their query to particular authors, publications, dates, and subject areas.  

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How to Use Google Scholar

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Your Top Google Scholar Questions

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Google Scholar searches across many scholarly disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, and universities with non scholarly results filtered out. Some of these scholarly results include free full text and many more are available for free to COM students, faculty and staff.

  • Google Scholar for COM (Will include results from COM databases--requires COM account).
  • Google Scholar for Anyone

To access the options, click on the arrow (pull down menu) of the search box. 

You'll get options to restrict results to specific authors, publications, dates and more. 

You can create a search alert with Google Scholar to get automatic updates on your research topic. Here's how:

  • Go to Google Scholar .
  • Search for your topic.
  • Click the envelope icon in the sidebar of the search results page.
  • Enter your email address, and click "Create alert".
  • Google will periodically email you newly published papers that match your search criteria.

Want to ask your own Question? Ask face 2 face, email, chat or got to .

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Full-Text Articles: Articles at Google Scholar

Google scholar.

Find scholarly content on the web with Google Scholar. It's useful for conducting comprehensive literature reviews beyond Walden Library.

Learn more from this guide:

  • Google Scholar by Jon Allinder Last Updated Aug 16, 2023 12478 views this year

Find an article at Google Scholar

If Walden doesn't have an article you want, check Google Scholar. You may find a free copy online.

scholar google com essay

If there is no link on the right:

  • Click the article title. Though rare, you may get it free from the publisher. You might also see how much it costs if you're interested in buying it.
  • Try searching regular Google .
  • Buy the article.
  • Use the Document Delivery Service . Remember, it can take 7-10 business days to get an article from DDS.

Connect Google Scholar to the Walden Library

Option 1: search using google scholar pre-connected to the walden library.

Access Google Scholar directly through the Library's website to use a pre-connected version .

Option 2: Manually connect Google Scholar to Walden Library

Follow these steps to manually link Google Scholar to the Walden Library collection:

  • Go to Google Scholar  ( 

scholar google com essay

  • In the search box, type in  Walden  and click the Search  button.

scholar google com essay

  • Click  Save. Google Scholar will remember this setting until you clear your browser cookies .  Now when you search Google Scholar, you will see Find @ Walden links to the right of articles available in the Library.

scholar google com essay

  • When you click on  Find @ Walden  you will be asked to login with your Walden username and password.
  • You may see a list of databases that contain the article; you will need to click on one of these database links to be taken to the article.
  • Pay attention to the years listed by the database links, as databases may have different publication years available.  Click on the database you want to try and it should take you to the article.
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Open Access


Research Article

The Role of Google Scholar in Evidence Reviews and Its Applicability to Grey Literature Searching

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation MISTRA EviEM, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden

Affiliations Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom, Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs, London, United Kingdom

Affiliations Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs, London, United Kingdom, Department for Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom

Affiliations Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs, London, United Kingdom, Environment Agency, London, United Kingdom

  • Neal Robert Haddaway, 
  • Alexandra Mary Collins, 
  • Deborah Coughlin, 
  • Stuart Kirk


  • Published: September 17, 2015
  • Reader Comments

Table 1

Google Scholar (GS), a commonly used web-based academic search engine, catalogues between 2 and 100 million records of both academic and grey literature (articles not formally published by commercial academic publishers). Google Scholar collates results from across the internet and is free to use. As a result it has received considerable attention as a method for searching for literature, particularly in searches for grey literature, as required by systematic reviews. The reliance on GS as a standalone resource has been greatly debated, however, and its efficacy in grey literature searching has not yet been investigated. Using systematic review case studies from environmental science, we investigated the utility of GS in systematic reviews and in searches for grey literature. Our findings show that GS results contain moderate amounts of grey literature, with the majority found on average at page 80. We also found that, when searched for specifically, the majority of literature identified using Web of Science was also found using GS. However, our findings showed moderate/poor overlap in results when similar search strings were used in Web of Science and GS (10–67%), and that GS missed some important literature in five of six case studies. Furthermore, a general GS search failed to find any grey literature from a case study that involved manual searching of organisations’ websites. If used in systematic reviews for grey literature, we recommend that searches of article titles focus on the first 200 to 300 results. We conclude that whilst Google Scholar can find much grey literature and specific, known studies, it should not be used alone for systematic review searches. Rather, it forms a powerful addition to other traditional search methods. In addition, we advocate the use of tools to transparently document and catalogue GS search results to maintain high levels of transparency and the ability to be updated, critical to systematic reviews.

Citation: Haddaway NR, Collins AM, Coughlin D, Kirk S (2015) The Role of Google Scholar in Evidence Reviews and Its Applicability to Grey Literature Searching. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0138237.

Editor: K. Brad Wray, State University of New York, Oswego, UNITED STATES

Received: June 23, 2015; Accepted: August 26, 2015; Published: September 17, 2015

Copyright: © 2015 Haddaway et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: AMC acknowledges a Policy Placement Fellowship funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency. Some ideas for this project were prompted by a forthcoming Defra research project (WT1552). NH was hosted at Bangor University ( ).

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Searching for information is an integral part of research. Over 11,500 journals are catalogued by Journal Citation Reports ( ), and the volume of published scientific research is growing at an ever-increasing rate [ 1 , 2 ]. Scientists must sift through this information to find relevant research, and do so today most commonly by using online citation databases (e.g. Web of Science) and search engines (e.g. Google Scholar). Just as the number of academic articles and journals is steadily increasing, so too are the number of citation databases.

A citation database is a set of citations that can be searched using an online tool, for example Web of Science ( ). These databases typically charge subscription fees for access to the database that do not cover the cost of access to the full text of the research articles themselves. Generally these databases selectively catalogue citations according to a predefined list of journals, publishers or subject areas. Several free-to-use services have recently appeared that search for citations on the internet, most notably Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search. These search engines do not store citations within a specific database, instead they regularly ‘crawl’ the internet for information that appears to be a citation. Some key characteristics of databases and search engines are compared in Table 1 .


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According to Thomson Reuters, the Web of Science Core Collections citation database contains almost 50 million research records ( ; February 2015), with Microsoft Academic Search reporting to catalogue in excess of 45 million records as of January 2013 ( ). Google Scholar does not report the volume of citations identifiable via their search facility, although attempts have been made to estimate this that suggest between 1.8 million [ 3 ] and 100 million records [ 4 ] are identifiable.

“Grey literature” is the term given to describe documents not published by commercial publishers, and it may form a vital component of evidence reviews such as systematic reviews and systematic maps [ 5 ], rapid evidence assessments [ 6 ] and synopses [ 7 ]. Grey literature includes academic theses, organisation reports, government papers, etc. and may prove highly influential in syntheses, despite not being formally published in the same way as traditional academic literature e.g. [ 8 ]. Considerable efforts are typically required within systematic reviews to search for grey literature in an attempt to include practitioner-held data and also account for possible publication bias [ 5 , 9 ]. Publication bias is the tendency for significant, positive research to be more likely to be published than non-significant or negative research, leading to an increased likelihood of overestimating effect sizes in meta-analyses and other syntheses [ 10 ]. The inclusion of grey literature is a central tenet of systematic review methodology, which aims to include all available documented evidence and reduce susceptibility to bias.

Academic citation databases are often the first port of call for researchers looking for information. However, access to databases is often expensive; some costing c. £100,000 per annum for organisations of up to 100 employees. Increasingly, researchers are using academic citation search engines to find information (Haddaway, unpublished data). Academic citation search engines appear to represent an attractive alternative to costly citation databases, cataloguing research almost immediately and not restricting results to certain journals, publishers or subject categories. Search engines are particularly attractive to systematic reviewers, since they have the potential to be used to search for grey literature quickly and simply using one search facility rather than a plethora of individual websites [ 5 ].

There is on-going debate regarding the utility of Google Scholar as an academic resource e.g. [ 11 , 12 ], but also as a replacement for traditional academic citation databases and in searches for grey literature in systematic reviews [ 13 , 14 ]. Google Scholar represents an attractive resource for researchers, since it is free-to-use, appears to catalogue vast numbers of academic articles, allows citations to be exported individually, and also provides citation tracking (although see criticism of citation tracking by Delgado Lopez-Cozar et al. [ 15 ]). Google Scholar is also potentially useful in systematic reviews, since reliance on just one such platform for searches would: i) offer resource efficiency, ii) offer cost efficiency, iii) allow rapid linking to full texts, iv) provide access to a substantial body of grey literature as well as academic literature, and v) be compatible with new methods for downloading citations in bulk that would allow for a very transparent approach to searching [ 16 ].

Previous research has shown that articles identified within systematic reviews are identifiable using Google Scholar [ 13 ]. However, other authors have suggested that this does not make Google Scholar an appropriate replacement for academic citation databases, as, in practice, there are considerable limitations in the search facility relative to those of academic databases [ 11 ], and there is on-going debate about Google Scholar’s place in research [ 12 ]. Shultz [ 17 ] listed many limitations that have been attributed to Google Scholar, including that the service permits use of only basic Boolean operators in search strings, which are limited to 256 characters, and that users cannot sort results (although some of the other cited disadvantages have been corrected in recent updates). Two further limitations to the use of Google Scholar in academic searches are the inability to directly export results in bulk as citations (although a limited number of individual citations can be extracted within a set time period) and the display of only the first 1,000 search records with no details of the means by which they are ordered.

Web-based academic search engines, such as Google Scholar, are often used within secondary syntheses (i.e. literature reviews, meta-analyses and systematic reviews). Systematic reviews typically screen the first 50 to 100 search records within Google Scholar e.g. [ 18 , 19 , 20 ], sometimes restricting searches to title rather than full-text searches e.g. [ 21 ]. Such activities are not themselves evidence-based, however. Little is known about how these results are ordered, or what proportion of search results are traditional academic relative to grey literature. Furthermore, this small degree of screening (50 to 100 records) is a very small proportion of the volume of literature found through other sources (often 10s of thousands of records).

Google Scholar has improved greatly in recent iterations; evident from early critiques of the service relative to academic citation databases that cite problems that no longer exist e.g. [ 22 , 23 ]. Whilst the debate on the usefulness of Google Scholar in academic activities has continued in recent years, some improvements to the service offer unequivocal utility; for example, Shariff et al. [ 24 ] found that Google Scholar provided access to almost three times as many articles free of charge than PubMed (14 and 5%, respectively).

Any recommendations in systematic review guidance that are made regarding the allocation of greater resources to the use of academic search engines, such as Google Scholar, should be based on knowledge that such resources are worthwhile, and that academic search engines provide meaningful sources of evidence, and do not correspond to wasted effort.

Here, we describe a study investigating the use of Google Scholar as a source of research literature to help answer the following questions:

  • What proportion of Google Scholar search results is academic literature and what proportion grey literature, and how does this vary between different topics?
  • How much overlap is there between the results obtained from Google Scholar and those obtained from Web of Science?
  • What proportion of Google Scholar and Web of Science search results are duplicates and what causes this duplication ?
  • Are articles included in previous environmental systematic reviews identifiable by using Google Scholar alone?
  • Is Google Scholar an effective means of finding grey literature relative to that identified from hand searches of organisational websites?

Seven published systematic reviews were used as case studies [ 20 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 ] (see Table 2 ). These reviews were chosen as they covered a diverse range of topics in environmental management and conservation, and included interdisciplinary elements relevant to public health, social sciences and molecular biology. The importance and types of grey literature vary between subjects, and a diversity of topics is necessary for any assessment of the utility of a grey literature search tool. The search strings used herein were either taken directly from the string used in Google Scholar in each systematic review’s methods or were based on the review’s academic search string where Google Scholar was not originally searched. Search results in Google Scholar were performed both at “full text” (i.e. the entire full text of each document was searched for the specified terms) and “title” (i.e. only the title of each document was searched for the specified terms) level using the advanced search facility (see for further details). Searches included patents and citations. Since Google Scholar displays a maximum of 1,000 search results this was the maximum number of citations that could be extracted using the specially developed method described below.


Searches were performed on 06/02/15. Web of Science includes the following databases as part of the MISTRA EviEM subscription; KCI-Korean Journal Database, SciELO Citation Index and Web of Sciences Core Collection.

1. What proportion of Google Scholar search results is grey literature?

A download manager (DownThemAll!; ) and web-scraping programme (; ) were used to download each page of search results (to a maximum of 100 pages; 1000 results) and then extract citations as patterned data from the locally stored HTML files into a database. Two databases (one for the title only search and one for the full text search) for each of the 7 systematic reviews were created, each holding up to 1,000 Google Scholar citations (see S1 File ).

Exported citations were assessed and categorised by NRH and AMC as one of the following types of literature:

  • ‘Black’–peer-reviewed articles published in academic journals
  • ‘Book’–monographs or complete books produced by commercial publishers
  • ‘Book chapter’–chapters within books produced by commercial publishers
  • ‘Patent’–registered patents and patent applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • ‘Thesis’–dissertations from postgraduate degrees (master’s and doctorates)
  • ‘Conference’–presentations, abstracts, posters and proceedings from conferences, workshops, meetings, congresses, symposia and colloquia
  • ‘Other’–all other literature that may or may not be peer-reviewed, including; reports, working papers, self-published books, etc.
  • ‘Unclear’–any search record that could not be categorised according to the above classification (ambiguous citations were discussed by the reviewers and classed as ‘unclear’ if no consensus could be reached due to limited information).

Book chapters are a subcategory of books but have been separated for additional clarity. These categories have been chosen because they reflect the type of information returned by Web of Science (‘black’ literature) and Google Scholar (all literature). The categories also reflect the emergent classifications that were possible based on information in the citations and any associated descriptions.

For each search type (title or full text) the proportion of literature types across the search results was summarised per page of results to assess the relative location of the types within the results.

2. How much overlap is there between Google Scholar and Web of Science?

For each of the 7 systematic review case studies title and full text searches were performed in Google Scholar and Web of Science (25/01/2015) and citation records extracted (all records for Web of Science or the first 1,000 for Google Scholar). Full text search results were not extracted for SR4 since over 47,000 records were returned, which was deemed too expansive for this assessment. The search results were then compared using the fuzzy duplicate identification add-in for Excel described below to investigate the degree of overlap between Web of Science and the first 1,000 Google Scholar search results.

3. What proportion of Google Scholar and Web of Science search results are duplicates and what causes this duplication?

Duplicate records are multiple citations that refer to the same article. They are disadvantageous in search results since they do not represent truly unique records and require time and resources for processing. Duplicates also lead to a false estimation of the size of search results: depending on the level of duplication there may be a significant deviation from the true size of search results. The fourteen databases from the 7 case study systematic reviews described above were screened for Google Scholar duplicates using the Excel Fuzzy Duplicate Finder add-in ( ) set to find up to 10 character differences between record titles. Potential duplicates were then manually assessed and reasons for duplication (e.g. spelling mistakes or grammatical differences) were recorded.

Searches were performed using Web of Science (using Bangor University’s subscription consisting of Biological Abstracts, MEDLINE, SciELO, Web of Science Core Collections and Zoological Record) using the same 7 search strings used with the above case studies in Google Scholar for topic words. The first 1,000 search results were extracted and assessed for duplicates on title using the Fuzzy Duplicate Finder as described above. Search results were extracted for records ordered both by relevance and by publication date (newest first), with the exception of SR2, SR5 and SR7, where totals of 230, 1,058 and 1,071 records respectively (all returned) were obtained and extracted in full.

4. Are articles included in previous environmental systematic reviews identifiable using Google Scholar?

In order to examine the coverage of Google Scholar in relation to studies included in environmental management systematic reviews, the lists of included articles following full text assessment were extracted from six reviews (four SRs described in Table 2 ; SR1, SR4, SR5, SR6 and two additional reviews; [ 8 , 31 ]) and each record’s title was searched for using Google Scholar. The option in Google Scholar to include citations was selected. Where titles were not found immediately, quotation marks were used, followed by partial removal of the title where possible typographical errors or punctuation variations might cause a record not to be found. Where records were identified as citations (i.e. Google Scholar found a reference within the reference list of another article) this was also recorded. In addition, references from the final lists of included article for three systematic reviews (SR1, SR4, SR6) were searched for in Web of Science as described for Google Scholar, above.

5. Is Google Scholar an effective means of finding grey literature identified from hand searches of organisational websites?

For another systematic review search string (SR5, Table 2 ) the 84 articles that were identified during searches for grey literature in the published review [ 28 ] from 16 organisational web sites (see S1 Table ) were used to test the ability of Google Scholar to find relevant grey literature using a single search string. The 84 articles were checked against the exported search results for both title and full text searches in Google Scholar (see Methods Section 1 above). The 84 articles were then screened in Google Scholar individually to assess whether they were included in the search engine’s coverage.

1. What proportion of Google Scholar search results is grey literature

Between 8 and 39% of full text search results from Google Scholar were classed as grey literature (mean ± SD: 19% ± 11), and between 8 and 64% of title search results (40% ± 17). Fig 1 displays search results by grey literature category, showing a greater percentage of grey literature than academic literature in title search results (43.0%) than full text results (18.9%). Conference proceedings, theses and “other” grey literature (i.e. reports and white-papers) accounted for the increase in the proportion of grey literature in title searches relative to full text searches. Theses formed a particularly small proportion of the full text search results across all case studies (1.3%), but formed a larger proportion of title search results (6.4%). Similarly, conference proceedings were less common in full text search results (3.2%) than title search results (15.3%). The proportion of patents, book chapters and books was similar in full text and title searches (0.2 and 0.3; 1.7 and 2.5; 4.2 and 2.8% respectively).


When examining the location of literature categories across search results (see S1 Fig ) several patterns emerge. “Peak” grey literature content (i.e. the point at which the volume of grey literature per page of search results was at its highest and where the bulk of grey literature is found) occurred on average at page 80 (±15 (SD)) for full text results, whilst it occurred at page 35 (± 25 (SD)) for title results. Before these points in the search results grey literature content was low in relative terms. For the majority of the case studies it was not until page 20 to 30 that grey literature formed a majority of each page of search results.

Google Scholar demonstrated modest overlap with Web of Science title searches: this overlap ranged from 10 to 67% of the total results in Web of Science ( Table 3 ). The overlap was highly variable between subjects, with reviews on marine protected area efficacy and terrestrial protected area socioeconomic impacts demonstrating the lowest overlap (17.1 and 10.3% respectively). Two case study title searches returned more than the viewable limit of 1,000 search results in Google Scholar (SR1 and SR4) and so only the first 1,000 could be extracted.


See Table 2 for case study explanations.

Full text search results from Google Scholar demonstrated low overlap with Web of Science results ( Table 4 ), ranging from 0.2 to 19.8% of the total Web of Science results.


n/a corresponds to search results that were too voluminous to download in full. See Table 2 for case study explanations.

3. What proportion of Google Scholar and Web of Science search results are duplicates and how do these duplicates come about?

Duplication rates (i.e. the percentage of total results that are duplicate records) for Google Scholar and Web of Science are shown in Table 5 and range from 0.00 to 2.93%. Rates of duplication are substantially higher within Google Scholar than Web of Science, and rates are far higher in title searches within Google Scholar than full text searches ( Table 6 ), although this is quite variable between the 7 case studies (1.0 to 4.8%%).


Numbers in parentheses correspond to the standard deviations of the individual case study duplication rates. Sample size refers to the number of search records in total, followed by the number of independent search strings (i.e. the number of case studies investigated).


Duplication rates are assessed for up to 1,000 search records (or the total number where less than c. 1,300). For Web of Science the full text results were ordered by publication date (newest first) and relevance where more than 1,000 results were returned. Numbers are duplication rate (%) followed by total search records in parentheses.

Duplicates appear to have arisen for a range of reasons. First, typographical errors introduced by manual transcription were found in both Google Scholar (15% of title records) and Web of Science. For example, the sole example of a duplicate from Web of Science is that of the two records that differ only in the spelling of the word ‘Goukamma’ (or Goukarmma) in the following title: “A change of the seaward boundary of Goukamma Marine Protected Area could increase conservation and fishery benefits”. Differences in formatting and punctuation are a subset of typographical errors and corresponded to 18% of title level duplicates. Second, capitalisation causes duplication in Google Scholar, and was responsible for 36% of title level duplicates. Third, incomplete titles (i.e. some missing words) were responsible for 15% of title level duplicates. Fourth, automated text detection (i.e. when scanning documents digitally) was responsible for 3% of title level duplicates. Fifth, Google Scholar also scans for citations within references of selected included literature, and the presence of both these citations and the original articles themselves was responsible for 13% of title level duplication.

Many of the included articles from the six published systematic review case studies were identified when searching for those articles specifically in Google Scholar ( Table 7 ). However, a significant proportion of studies in one review [ 31 ] were not found at all using Google Scholar (31.5%). Other reviews were better represented by Google Scholar coverage (94.3 to 100% of studies). Only one review had an included article list that was fully covered by Google Scholar, the review with the smallest evidence base of only 37 studies [ 31 ]. For those reviews where studies were not identified by Google Scholar, a further search was performed for these missing studies in Web of Science ( Table 7 ), which demonstrated that some of these studies (6 studies from 2 case study reviews) were catalogued by Web of Science.


Records identified as citations are found only within reference lists of other articles (their existence is not verified by the presence of a publisher version or full text article, unlike hyperlinked citations).

Google Scholar search results that were available only as citations (i.e. obtained from the reference lists of other search results) constituted between 0 and 15.2% of identified results. Citations typically do not lead to web pages that provide additional information and cannot therefore be verified manually by users.

When searching specifically for individual articles, Google Scholar catalogued a larger proportion of articles than Web of Science (% of total in Google Scholar / % of total in Web of Science: SR1, 98.3/96.7; SR4, 94.3/83.9; SR6, 99.4/89.7).

None of the 84 grey literature articles identified by SR5 [ 28 ] were found within the exported Google Scholar search results (68 total records from title searches and 1,000 of a total 49,700 records from full text searches). However, when searched for specifically 61 of the 84 articles were identified by Google Scholar.

This paper set out to investigate the role of Google Scholar in searches for academic and grey literature in systematic and other literature reviews. There is much interest in Google Scholar due to its free-to-use interface, apparent comprehensiveness e.g. [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 ], and application within systematic reviews [ 16 ]. However, previous studies have disagreed on whether the service could be used as a standalone resource e.g. [ 11 , 12 ]. Our study enables recommendations to be made for the use of Google Scholar in systematic searches for academic and grey literature, particularly in systematic reviews.

Our results show that Google Scholar is indeed a useful platform for searching for environmental science grey literature that would benefit researchers such as systematic reviewers, agreeing with previous research in medicine [ 32 , 33 ]. Our investigations also demonstrate that more grey literature is returned in title searches than full text searches (43% relative to 19%, respectively), slightly more than previously found in an investigation of full text searching alone in an early version of Google Scholar (13% of total results; [ 17 ]). The grey literature returned by Google Scholar may be seen by some as disadvantageous given its perceived lack of verification (through formal academic peer-review), particularly where researchers are looking for purely traditional academic evidence. However, this may be particularly useful for those seeking evidence from across academic and grey literature domains; for example, those wishing to minimise the risk of publication bias (the over-representation of significant research in academic publications [ 34 ]).

We found that the greatest volume of grey literature in searches occurs at around page 35 for title searches. This finding indicates that researchers, including systematic reviewers, using Google Scholar as a source of grey literature should revise the current common practice of searching the first 50–100 results (5–10 pages) in favour of a more extensive search that looks further into the records returned. Conversely, those wishing to use title searching for purely academic literature should focus on the first 300 results to reduce the proportion of grey literature in their search results.

The grey literature returned in the 7 systematic review case studies examined herein mostly consisted of “other” grey literature and conference proceedings; i.e. white papers and organisational reports. Reports and white papers may prove particularly useful for secondary syntheses, since they may often represent resources that are commissioned by policy and practice decision-makers. Conference proceedings typically represent academic works that have not been formally published in commercial academic journals: such articles may also provide useful evidence for reviewers, particularly systematic reviewers. Academic theses were more common in title searches in Google Scholar, whilst books were more common in full text searches. Theses can provide a vital source of grey literature [ 35 ], research that never makes it into the public domain through academic publications. It is worth noting that whilst academic peer-review is not a guarantee of rigour, research that has not been through formal academic peer-review should be carefully appraised before being integrated into syntheses such as systematic reviews [ 5 ]. Google Scholar may thus prove to be a useful resource in addition to dedicated databases of theses (e.g. DART-Europe; ) and other grey literature repositories (e.g. ProceedingsFirst; ).

Surprisingly, we found relatively little overlap between Google Scholar and Web of Science (10–67% of WoS results were returned using searches in Google Scholar using title searches). For the largest set of results (SR4) only 17% of WoS records were returned in the viewable results in Google Scholar (restricted to the first 1,000 records). However, the actual number of returned results in Google Scholar was 4,310, with only the first 1,000 being viewable due to the limitations of Google Scholar. Assuming an even distribution of overlapping studies across these results we might expect a modest 73% coverage in total (calculated by applying a consistent rate of 17% from the first 1,000 to the full set of 4,310 search records). The limitations of viewable results in Google Scholar make an assessment of overlap impossible when the number of results is greater than 1,000. The case study SR1 only slightly exceeded the viewable limit of 1,000 studies and identified an overlap of 38%, however.

The relatively low overlap between the two services demonstrates that Google Scholar is not a suitable replacement for traditional academic searches: although its results are greater than those in Web of Science, the majority of Web of Science search results are not returned by Google Scholar. However, Google Scholar is a useful addition to traditional database searching, since a large body of search records was returned for each case study that did not overlap, potentially increasing the coverage of any multi-database search, such as those carried out in systematic reviews.

Duplicates within citation databases are disadvantageous because they represent false records. Although the individual reference may be correct, its presence in the database contributes to the number of results. Where large numbers of references must be screened manually, as in systematic reviews, duplicates may also represent a waste of resources where they are not automatically detectable. Duplication rates in Web of Science were very low (0–0.05%), but notably higher in Google Scholar (1–5%). Duplication in Google Scholar occurred as a result of differences in formatting, punctuation, capitalisation, incomplete records, and mistakes during automated scanning and population of the search records. The sensitivity of Google Scholar searches comes at a cost, since identical records are identified as unique references. This may not be a significant problem for small-scale searches, but a 5% duplication rate represents a substantial waste of resources in a systematic review where tens of thousands of titles must be screened manually.

Gehano et al. [ 13 ] found that Google Scholar was able to identify all 738 articles from across 29 systematic reviews in medicine, and concluded that it could be used as a standalone resource in systematic reviews, stating that “if the authors of the 29 systematic reviews had used only GS, no reference would have been missed”. As pointed out by other researchers e.g. [ 14 ], this conclusion is incorrect, since the ability to find specific, known references does not equate to an ability to return these references using a search strategy as might be conducted within a systematic review: most importantly, the relevant articles may be returned outside of the viewable 1,000 records. Giustini and Boulos [ 14 ] found that 5% of studies from a systematic review could not be identified using specific searches in Google Scholar, whilst Boeker et al. [ 11 ] found that up to 34% of studies from 14 systematic reviews were missed.

Google Scholar was able to find much of the existing literature included within the systematic review case studies in our investigations, and indeed found more than Web of Science in the three case studies examined. As such, Google Scholar provides a powerful tool for identifying articles that are already known to exist (for example, when looking for a citation or access to a full text document). In addition, the search engine was also able to identify large amounts of potentially relevant grey literature. However, some important evidence was not identified at all by Google Scholar (31.5% in one case study), meaning that the review may have come to a very different conclusion if it had relied solely on Google Scholar. Similarly, Web of Science alone is insufficient to identify all relevant literature. As described above, Google Scholar may provide a useful source of evidence in addition to traditional academic databases, but it should not be used as a standalone resource in evidence-gathering exercises such as systematic reviews.

Google Scholar was able to identify a large proportion of the grey literature found in one case study through hand searching of organisational websites (61 of 84 articles). However, 23 articles could not be found using the search engine. Furthermore, the 61 articles found were not returned when using a typical systematic review-style search string. Together, these factors demonstrate that Google Scholar is a useful resource in addition to hand searching of organisational websites, returning a large volume of potentially relevant information, but that it should not be used as a standalone resource for grey literature searching, since some vital information is missed. Hand searching, as recommended by the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence Guidelines in Systematic Reviews [ 5 ], is restricted only to those websites included in an a priori protocol. Google Scholar exhaustively searches the internet for studies, however, and whilst it may be more coarse than fine-level hand searching (i.e. missing studies), the addition of a Google Scholar search targeting grey literature would increase comprehensiveness without giving cause for concern with relation to any systematic bias. However, since the algorithms that order search results are not disclosed, a substantial proportion of search results should be examined.

Other Considerations

As mentioned above, only the first 1,000 search results can be viewed in Google Scholar, and the order in which results are returned is not disclosed. Furthermore, the ‘advanced’ search facility supports only very basic Boolean logic, accepting only one set of ‘OR’ or ‘AND’ arguments, not both. In addition, variations in the way that subscript and superscript text, for example with chemical symbols, are displayed and recognised mean that poor matching occurs during searches where these characters form part of article titles. Finally, Google Scholar has a low threshold for repetitive activity that triggers an automated block to a user’s IP address (in our experience the export of approximately 180 citations or 180 individual searches). Thankfully this can be readily circumvented with the use of IP-mirroring software such as Hola ( ), although care should be taken when systematically accessing Google Scholar to ensure the terms of use are not violated.


We have provided evidence that Google Scholar is a powerful tool for finding specific literature, but that it cannot be a replacement for traditional academic citation databases, nor can it replace hand-searching for grey literature. The limitations of the number of search results displayed, the incomplete Boolean operation of the advanced search facility, and the non-disclosure of the algorithm by which search results are ordered mean that Google Scholar is not a transparent search facility. Moreover, the high proportion of grey literature that is missed by Google Scholar mean that it is not a viable alternative to hand searching for grey literature as a stand-alone tool. Despite this, Google Scholar is able to identify a large body of additional grey literature in excess of that found by either traditional academic citation databases or grey literature identification methods. These factors make Google Scholar an attractive supplement to hand searching, further increasing comprehensiveness of searches for evidence.

We also note that the development of tools to take snapshots of search results from Google Scholar and extract these results as citations can significantly increase the efficiency and transparency of using Google Scholar (i.e. beyond the arbitrary first 50 search results currently favoured in many systematic reviews).

Several recommendations can be made based on our findings for those wishing to use Google Scholar as a resource for research evidence:

  • 1. Finding : Google Scholar is capable of identifying the majority of evidence in the systematic review case studies examined when searching specifically for known articles.
  • Recommendation : Google Scholar is a powerful, free-to-use tool that can be recommended if looking for specific research studies.
  • 2. Finding : Google Scholar is not capable of identifying all relevant evidence identified in the systematic review case studies examined, missing some vital information (as did Web of Science).
  • Recommendation : Google Scholar (and Web of Science) should not be used as standalone resources for finding evidence as part of comprehensive searching activities, such as systematic reviews.
  • 3. Finding: Substantially more grey literature is found using title searches in Google Scholar than full text searches.
  • Recommendation: If looking for grey literature, reviewers should consider using title searches. If looking for academic literature title searches will yield a great deal of unsuitable information.
  • 4. Finding: Title level searches yield more conference proceedings, theses and ‘other’ grey literature.
  • Recommendation: Title level searches may be particularly useful in identifying as yet unpublished academic research grey literature as well as organisational reports and government papers [ 9 ]
  • 5. Finding: The majority of grey literature begins to appear after approximately 20 to 30 pages of results.
  • Recommendation: If looking for grey literature the results should be screened well beyond the 20 th page.

In summary, we find Google Scholar to be a useful supplement in searches for evidence, particularly grey literature so long as its limitations are recognised. We recommend that the arbitrary assessment of the first 50 search results from Google Scholar, frequently undertaken in systematic reviews, should be replaced with the practice of recording snapshots of all viewable search results: i.e. the first 1,000 records. This change in practice could significantly improve both the transparency and coverage of systematic reviews, especially with respect to their grey literature components.

Supporting Information

S1 fig. google scholar search results separated by literature type..

Search results by page for 7 case studies (see Table 2 for descriptions), for a) full text and b) title searches. Results displayed are for the total number of extractable records in Google Scholar.

S1 File. Google Scholar Search Results.

Database of Google Scholar full text and title searches for 7 case study systematic reviews.

S1 Table. Organisational websites list for SR5.

List of organisations yielding potentially relevant evidence for a systematic review on the human wellbeing impacts of terrestrial protected areas.


The authors wish to thank Helen Bayliss and Beth Hall for discussion of the topic. AMC acknowledges a Policy Placement Fellowship funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency. Some ideas for this project were prompted by a forthcoming Defra research project (WT1552).

Author Contributions

Conceived and designed the experiments: NH. Performed the experiments: NH AC. Analyzed the data: NH. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: NH. Wrote the paper: NH AC DC SK.

  • View Article
  • PubMed/NCBI
  • Google Scholar
  • 5. Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (CEE). Guidelines for Systematic Review and Evidence Synthesis in Environmental Management. Version 4.2. 2013. Environmental Evidence:
  • 6. Collins A, Miller J, Coughlin D, Kirk S. The Production of Quick Scoping Reviews and Rapid Evidence Assessments: A How to Guide—Joint Water Evidence Group. 2014: Beta Version 2.
  • 7. Conservation Evidence. Synopses Methods. 2015. Available: . Accessed 2015 Feb 24.
  • 16. Haddaway NR. The Use of Web-scraping Software in Searching for Grey Literature. The Grey Journal. In press.

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The Catholic University library catalog and many of the article databases Catholic University subscribes to are accessible through Google Scholar .

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Visit and begin searching. You're good to go!

Off-campus access

If you are off campus you will need to set the preferences so that Google will show you the resources that Catholic University provides.

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  • Enter CUA in the text field next to Library Links then click on the Search button.
  • Check the box in the front of our university name, then click Save in the lower right corner.

Searching with Google Scholar

Within Google Scholar you may conduct searches by keyword, author and article title. There is also an advanced search with more options. In the result list, when you see ViewIt@CatholicU , that means we have access to the electronic copy for the article. Click on ViewIt@CatholicU , the next page will show that item in our SearchBox with a link to the full text.

Google Scholar is good for conducting simple searches across a broad number of databases. For complex or in depth searching we recommend that you search individual subject databases .

Google Scholar™ is a trademark of Google Inc.

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The top list of academic search engines

academic search engines

1. Google Scholar

4., 5. semantic scholar, 6. baidu scholar, get the most out of academic search engines, frequently asked questions about academic search engines, related articles.

Academic search engines have become the number one resource to turn to in order to find research papers and other scholarly sources. While classic academic databases like Web of Science and Scopus are locked behind paywalls, Google Scholar and others can be accessed free of charge. In order to help you get your research done fast, we have compiled the top list of free academic search engines.

Google Scholar is the clear number one when it comes to academic search engines. It's the power of Google searches applied to research papers and patents. It not only lets you find research papers for all academic disciplines for free but also often provides links to full-text PDF files.

  • Coverage: approx. 200 million articles
  • Abstracts: only a snippet of the abstract is available
  • Related articles: ✔
  • References: ✔
  • Cited by: ✔
  • Links to full text: ✔
  • Export formats: APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, Vancouver, RIS, BibTeX

Search interface of Google Scholar

BASE is hosted at Bielefeld University in Germany. That is also where its name stems from (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine).

  • Coverage: approx. 136 million articles (contains duplicates)
  • Abstracts: ✔
  • Related articles: ✘
  • References: ✘
  • Cited by: ✘
  • Export formats: RIS, BibTeX

Search interface of Bielefeld Academic Search Engine aka BASE

CORE is an academic search engine dedicated to open-access research papers. For each search result, a link to the full-text PDF or full-text web page is provided.

  • Coverage: approx. 136 million articles
  • Links to full text: ✔ (all articles in CORE are open access)
  • Export formats: BibTeX

Search interface of the CORE academic search engine is a fantastic resource as it bundles and offers free access to search results from more than 15 U.S. federal agencies. There is no need anymore to query all those resources separately!

  • Coverage: approx. 200 million articles and reports
  • Links to full text: ✔ (available for some databases)
  • Export formats: APA, MLA, RIS, BibTeX (available for some databases)

Search interface of

Semantic Scholar is the new kid on the block. Its mission is to provide more relevant and impactful search results using AI-powered algorithms that find hidden connections and links between research topics.

  • Coverage: approx. 40 million articles
  • Export formats: APA, MLA, Chicago, BibTeX

Search interface of Semantic Scholar

Although Baidu Scholar's interface is in Chinese, its index contains research papers in English as well as Chinese.

  • Coverage: no detailed statistics available, approx. 100 million articles
  • Abstracts: only snippets of the abstract are available
  • Export formats: APA, MLA, RIS, BibTeX

Search interface of Baidu Scholar

RefSeek searches more than one billion documents from academic and organizational websites. Its clean interface makes it especially easy to use for students and new researchers.

  • Coverage: no detailed statistics available, approx. 1 billion documents
  • Abstracts: only snippets of the article are available
  • Export formats: not available

Search interface of RefSeek

Consider using a reference manager like Paperpile to save, organize, and cite your references. Paperpile integrates with Google Scholar and many popular databases, so you can save references and PDFs directly to your library using the Paperpile buttons:

scholar google com essay

Google Scholar is an academic search engine, and it is the clear number one when it comes to academic search engines. It's the power of Google searches applied to research papers and patents. It not only let's you find research papers for all academic disciplines for free, but also often provides links to full text PDF file.

Semantic Scholar is a free, AI-powered research tool for scientific literature developed at the Allen Institute for AI. Sematic Scholar was publicly released in 2015 and uses advances in natural language processing to provide summaries for scholarly papers.

BASE , as its name suggest is an academic search engine. It is hosted at Bielefeld University in Germany and that's where it name stems from (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine).

CORE is an academic search engine dedicated to open access research papers. For each search result a link to the full text PDF or full text web page is provided. is a fantastic resource as it bundles and offers free access to search results from more than 15 U.S. federal agencies. There is no need any more to query all those resources separately!

scholar google com essay

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Found an interesting paper and don’t have time to read it right now? Today we are adding a reading list to your Scholar Library to help you save papers and read them later.

You can also use it to save papers you find off-campus but want to read on-campus where you have access to the full text, or papers you find on your smartphone but want to read on a larger screen.

To add a paper to your reading list, click “Save” and add the “Reading list” label. To use this feature, you need to be signed in to your Google account.

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To read the paper, click the [PDF] or [HTML] link next to its title.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, getting college essay help: important do's and don’ts.

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College Essays


If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.


Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.


Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.


A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.


What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )


Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.


If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?


Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.


  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Academic Essay Writing Made Simple: 4 types and tips

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The pen is mightier than the sword, they say, and nowhere is this more evident than in academia. From the quick scribbles of eager students to the inquisitive thoughts of renowned scholars, academic essays depict the power of the written word. These well-crafted writings propel ideas forward and expand the existing boundaries of human intellect.

What is an Academic Essay

An academic essay is a nonfictional piece of writing that analyzes and evaluates an argument around a specific topic or research question. It serves as a medium to share the author’s views and is also used by institutions to assess the critical thinking, research skills, and writing abilities of a students and researchers.  

Importance of Academic Essays

4 main types of academic essays.

While academic essays may vary in length, style, and purpose, they generally fall into four main categories. Despite their differences, these essay types share a common goal: to convey information, insights, and perspectives effectively.

1. Expository Essay

2. Descriptive Essay

3. Narrative Essay

4. Argumentative Essay

Expository and persuasive essays mainly deal with facts to explain ideas clearly. Narrative and descriptive essays are informal and have a creative edge. Despite their differences, these essay types share a common goal ― to convey information, insights, and perspectives effectively.

Expository Essays: Illuminating ideas

An expository essay is a type of academic writing that explains, illustrates, or clarifies a particular subject or idea. Its primary purpose is to inform the reader by presenting a comprehensive and objective analysis of a topic.

By breaking down complex topics into digestible pieces and providing relevant examples and explanations, expository essays allow writers to share their knowledge.

What are the Key Features of an Expository Essay

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Provides factual information without bias

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Presents multiple viewpoints while maintaining objectivity

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Uses direct and concise language to ensure clarity for the reader

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Composed of a logical structure with an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion

When is an expository essay written.

1. For academic assignments to evaluate the understanding of research skills.

2. As instructional content to provide step-by-step guidance for tasks or problem-solving.

3. In journalism for objective reporting in news or investigative pieces.

4. As a form of communication in the professional field to convey factual information in business or healthcare.

How to Write an Expository Essay

Expository essays are typically structured in a logical and organized manner.

1. Topic Selection and Research

  • Choose a topic that can be explored objectively
  • Gather relevant facts and information from credible sources
  • Develop a clear thesis statement

2. Outline and Structure

  • Create an outline with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion
  • Introduce the topic and state the thesis in the introduction
  • Dedicate each body paragraph to a specific point supporting the thesis
  • Use transitions to maintain a logical flow

3. Objective and Informative Writing

  • Maintain an impartial and informative tone
  • Avoid personal opinions or biases
  • Support points with factual evidence, examples, and explanations

4. Conclusion

  • Summarize the key points
  • Reinforce the significance of the thesis

Descriptive Essays: Painting with words

Descriptive essays transport readers into vivid scenes, allowing them to experience the world through the writer ‘s lens. These essays use rich sensory details, metaphors, and figurative language to create a vivid and immersive experience . Its primary purpose is to engage readers’ senses and imagination.

It allows writers to demonstrate their ability to observe and describe subjects with precision and creativity.

What are the Key Features of Descriptive Essay

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Employs figurative language and imagery to paint a vivid picture for the reader

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Demonstrates creativity and expressiveness in narration

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Includes close attention to detail, engaging the reader’s senses

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Engages the reader’s imagination and emotions through immersive storytelling using analogies, metaphors, similes, etc.

When is a descriptive essay written.

1. Personal narratives or memoirs that describe significant events, people, or places.

2. Travel writing to capture the essence of a destination or experience.

3. Character sketches in fiction writing to introduce and describe characters.

4. Poetry or literary analyses to explore the use of descriptive language and imagery.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

The descriptive essay lacks a defined structural requirement but typically includes: an introduction introducing the subject, a thorough description, and a concluding summary with insightful reflection.

1. Subject Selection and Observation

  • Choose a subject (person, place, object, or experience) to describe
  • Gather sensory details and observations

2. Engaging Introduction

  • Set the scene and provide the context
  • Use of descriptive language and figurative techniques

3. Descriptive Body Paragraphs

  • Focus on specific aspects or details of the subject
  • Engage the reader ’s senses with vivid imagery and descriptions
  • Maintain a consistent tone and viewpoint

4. Impactful Conclusion

  • Provide a final impression or insight
  • Leave a lasting impact on the reader

Narrative Essays: Storytelling in Action

Narrative essays are personal accounts that tell a story, often drawing from the writer’s own experiences or observations. These essays rely on a well-structured plot, character development, and vivid descriptions to engage readers and convey a deeper meaning or lesson.

What are the Key features of Narrative Essays

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Written from a first-person perspective and hence subjective

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Based on real personal experiences

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Uses an informal and expressive tone

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Presents events and characters in sequential order

When is a narrative essay written.

It is commonly assigned in high school and college writing courses to assess a student’s ability to convey a meaningful message or lesson through a personal narrative. They are written in situations where a personal experience or story needs to be recounted, such as:

1. Reflective essays on significant life events or personal growth.

2. Autobiographical writing to share one’s life story or experiences.

3. Creative writing exercises to practice narrative techniques and character development.

4. College application essays to showcase personal qualities and experiences.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays typically follow a chronological structure, with an introduction that sets the scene, a body that develops the plot and characters, and a conclusion that provides a sense of resolution or lesson learned.

1. Experience Selection and Reflection

  • Choose a significant personal experience or event
  • Reflect on the impact and deeper meaning

2. Immersive Introduction

  • Introduce characters and establish the tone and point of view

3. Plotline and Character Development

  • Advance   the  plot and character development through body paragraphs
  • Incorporate dialog , conflict, and resolution
  • Maintain a logical and chronological flow

4. Insightful Conclusion

  • Reflect on lessons learned or insights gained
  • Leave the reader with a lasting impression

Argumentative Essays: Persuasion and Critical Thinking

Argumentative essays are the quintessential form of academic writing in which writers present a clear thesis and support it with well-researched evidence and logical reasoning. These essays require a deep understanding of the topic, critical analysis of multiple perspectives, and the ability to construct a compelling argument.

What are the Key Features of an Argumentative Essay?

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Logical and well-structured arguments

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Credible and relevant evidence from reputable sources

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Consideration and refutation of counterarguments

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Critical analysis and evaluation of the issue 

When is an argumentative essay written.

Argumentative essays are written to present a clear argument or stance on a particular issue or topic. In academic settings they are used to develop critical thinking, research, and persuasive writing skills. However, argumentative essays can also be written in various other contexts, such as:

1. Opinion pieces or editorials in newspapers, magazines, or online publications.

2. Policy proposals or position papers in government, nonprofit, or advocacy settings.

3. Persuasive speeches or debates in academic, professional, or competitive environments.

4. Marketing or advertising materials to promote a product, service, or idea.

How to write an Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essays begin with an introduction that states the thesis and provides context. The body paragraphs develop the argument with evidence, address counterarguments, and use logical reasoning. The conclusion restates the main argument and makes a final persuasive appeal.

  • Choose a debatable and controversial issue
  • Conduct thorough research and gather evidence and counterarguments

2. Thesis and Introduction

  • Craft a clear and concise thesis statement
  • Provide background information and establish importance

3. Structured Body Paragraphs

  • Focus each paragraph on a specific aspect of the argument
  • Support with logical reasoning, factual evidence, and refutation

4. Persuasive Techniques

  • Adopt a formal and objective tone
  • Use persuasive techniques (rhetorical questions, analogies, appeals)

5. Impactful Conclusion

  • Summarize the main points
  • Leave the reader with a strong final impression and call to action

To learn more about argumentative essay, check out this article .

5 Quick Tips for Researchers to Improve Academic Essay Writing Skills

scholar google com essay

Use clear and concise language to convey ideas effectively without unnecessary words

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Use well-researched, credible sources to substantiate your arguments with data, expert opinions, and scholarly references

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Ensure a coherent structure with effective transitions, clear topic sentences, and a logical flow to enhance readability 

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To elevate your academic essay, consider submitting your draft to a community-based platform like Open Platform  for editorial review 

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Review your work multiple times for clarity, coherence, and adherence to academic guidelines to ensure a polished final product

By mastering the art of academic essay writing, researchers and scholars can effectively communicate their ideas, contribute to the advancement of knowledge, and engage in meaningful scholarly discourse.

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How to nail your scholarship application essay.

A student writes in a notebook while viewing a laptop screen.

When it comes to applying for scholarships, the task can be immediately overwhelming. Where do you find scholarships? How do you apply? What do they each require? This is going to take forever!

But at Colorado State, we do things a little differently. We’re so proud of our one-and-done scholarship application process. Almost all CSU scholarships live in the same place, and can be applied for with one application, one time, and that’s it. The Colorado State University Scholarship Application (CSUSA) takes a big hurdle out of your path right off the bat. Completing the CSUSA enters you for nearly every scholarship at CSU that you’re eligible for. Now all you have to do is nail that application essay … and we’re here to make that part easy, too. Here are some insider info, tips, and even a few essay excerpts to help you as you tackle your essay.

#1. It’s less formal than you think

Did you know that your scholarship application essay is meant to help us see the most-authentic version of you, your journey, and your goals? We’re not looking for a formal essay here. You won’t need to analyze anything, look for metaphors, or even write a structured outline when you start (but you can if it helps you).

The essay prompt might ask you to tell your story, highlight your ambitions, and explain how you see yourself succeeding in this big ol’ world. Essay prompts range from what kind of career you see yourself in, and how college might help you get there. They might ask you to describe a challenging event, explain how you navigated it, and how it inspires you to go forward in life. The essay is so much more your story than anything else. The more YOU you are, the better. Don’t worry too much about intros, transitions, structure, or formal conclusion paragraphs when you first sit down to write. Let it flow and be you.

  • Tip : Write your first draft like you’re talking to your best friend, your favorite teacher, your mentor, your coach. Your voice/tone should be genuine, passionate, and infused with the vibe you’d give if you were telling your biggest dreams to your biggest cheerleaders. We’re rooting for you here.

#2. Vulnerability is your superpower here

Perhaps the biggest tool in your toolbox when it comes to writing a genuine, powerful essay is your willingness to be vulnerable. While vulnerability may seem like a weakness in some arenas, it’s your superpower in the scholarship application essay. So what exactly is it, and how can you use it to your advantage?

Vulnerability, by definition, is the willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weaknesses to be seen or known. There can be some risk involved in being vulnerable, and that’s often why it has such a big impact. You’re essentially giving away your armor, and that allows you to create connection at a deep, emotional level. To put vulnerability to work in a story or experience, try to remember how you felt in that moment, and what was running through your head. Instead of just recounting events as they happened, retell them as YOU experienced them. Let emotion guide your story instead of rehashing a timeline of events. The story, told as it moved through you, is what makes the connection.

  • Tip : As you recount an event or moment in your essay, try to incorporate the senses. What did you see, hear, smell, feel? Let emotion be your guide, but paint the picture fully.

#3. Word choice matters (and not in the way you might think)

One question you should ask yourself as you draft your essay is if the words you’re using actually suit you. Would you use these actual words if you were talking to someone? One thing that can derail your authenticity in writing is trying to use big or “impressive” words that wouldn’t naturally flow from you in your daily life. We’re not saying you shouldn’t use a thesaurus, but be choosy. If the word doesn’t “fit” you when you’re casually speaking, we’re going to feel that in your essay, too.

  • Tip : Read your essay aloud while recording yourself. Does it flow? Are there words that you stumble over as you read them? If so, put those words into the thesaurus and see if anything comes up that doesn’t trip you up as you read. It should feel as natural to read it as it would if you were talking to a friend.

#4. Always, always, always get a proofreader (or two)

While it’s not the most-glamorous advice, we cannot stress enough the importance of having someone — and, preferably, multiple someones — review your essay. Even the most-seasoned professional writer will make errors, even after multiple drafts. Typos, missing words, tense errors, and even disorganized thoughts can distract readers from your beautiful, unique story. Our advice is to find a proofreader who can dial in your punctuation and grammar, and another who can help you with the more-subtle aspects of good writing, like flow, tone, and structure. You want to start and end strong, plus have a robust, visually and emotionally stimulating middle.

  • Tip : Draft your first version raw without any expectations of yourself. Answer the essay prompt as if you’re writing in your journal. Then find a reliable proofreader (preferably outside the house, like a teacher) to help you level it up and polish it up. After you’ve done a little spiff, show it to a second proofreader. Fresh eyes mean everything.

Some essay excerpts to inspire you

Ready to learn more about the csu scholarship process.

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Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.


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  1. Google Scholar

    Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. Search across a wide variety of disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions.

  2. About Google Scholar

    Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find ...

  3. How to use Google Scholar: the ultimate guide

    Google Scholar searches are not case sensitive. 2. Use keywords instead of full sentences. 3. Use quotes to search for an exact match. 3. Add the year to the search phrase to get articles published in a particular year. 4. Use the side bar controls to adjust your search result.

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    Search Help. Get the most out of Google Scholar with some helpful tips on searches, email alerts, citation export, and more. Your search results are normally sorted by relevance, not by date. To find newer articles, try the following options in the left sidebar: click the envelope icon to have new results periodically delivered by email.

  5. Google Scholar

    Google Scholar is a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Released in beta in November 2004, the Google Scholar index includes peer-reviewed online academic journals and books, conference papers, theses and dissertations, preprints, abstracts, technical reports, and other ...

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    to continue to Google Scholar Citations. Email or phone. Forgot email? Type the text you hear or see. Not your computer? Use a private browsing window to sign in. Learn more about using Guest mode. Next. Create account. Google Scholar Citations lets you track citations to your publications over time.

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  24. Types of Essays in Academic Writing

    2. Descriptive Essay. 3. Narrative Essay. 4. Argumentative Essay. Expository and persuasive essays mainly deal with facts to explain ideas clearly. Narrative and descriptive essays are informal and have a creative edge. Despite their differences, these essay types share a common goal ― to convey information, insights, and perspectives ...

  25. How to nail your scholarship application essay

    Completing the CSUSA enters you for nearly every scholarship at CSU that you're eligible for. Now all you have to do is nail that application essay … and we're here to make that part easy, too. Here are some insider info, tips, and even a few essay excerpts to help you as you tackle your essay. #1. It's less formal than you think.