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How to search: Search Google Scholar

This guide will show you how to search in the different Unisa Library resources to find relevant information for your research needs

Request a Literature Search

Need sources for your literature review? Struggling to find sources for your assignment, research proposal or thesis?

The Library can assist with a literature search, which is a systematic and comprehensive search for published, academic material on your specific subject/topic. How do you request one? Simply go to Request a literature search .

If you are experiencing problems accessing the form, please use this link

How do I get the most out of Google Scholar?

You can get the most out of Google Scholar by using the more nuanced search features available in the Advanced Search option. You may prefer to start with a wider search on the initial Google Scholar search screen, but then click on More and then select Advanced search if you wish to refine your approach. The various options can be used alone or in combination.

The Advanced Search allows you to find scholarly articles by author, journal title, date range, among other options that let you focus or widen your search results.

Sophisticated search strategies can be constructed that allow you to retrieve a greater percentage of relevant information.

Read Google Scholar Advanced Search Tips to help you build more complex search strategies.

Library Support

A word about copyright

In accordance with the Unisa Policy for Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism, you are personally accountable for respecting copyright and licensing requirements. Violations of any of these restrictions could result not only in the loss of your own access to the information resources, but in the loss of access for the entire Unisa community. Disciplinary action may also be taken in terms of any applicable policy or disciplinary code, for example, the Unisa Student Disciplinary Code.

Be conscientious about copyright. 

Preventing Google Scholar Setting from changing

To prevent the Google Scholar Library Links settings to change after every browser closure, do the following:

1. Google Chrome

1.1 Open Google Chrome.

1.2 In the top right-hand corner, under the “X”, click on the three vertical dots.

1.3 Then, from the drop-down menu, choose “Settings”.

1.4 On the next page, under the heading “Privacy and security”, click “Cookies and other site data”.

1.5 Scroll down and look for “Clear cookies and site data” when you quit Chrome.

1.6 If the slider to the right of this option is activated , click on the slider to deactivate it

1.7 Close the Google Chrome session /s.

1.8 Open Google Chrome and set the Google Scholar Library Links.


2. Microsoft Edge

2.1 Open Microsoft Edge.

2.2 In the top right-hand corner, under the “X”, click on the three horizontal dots.

2.3 Then, from the drop-down menu, choose Settings.

2.4 In the left-hand pane, choose “Privacy, search, and services”.

2.5 Scroll down in the middle of the page up to the heading “Clear browsing data”.

2.6 Click on “Choose what to clear every time you close the browser”.

2.7 There will be seven options listed with sliders next to each.

2.8 If any of the sliders are activated , click on each of the activated sliders to deactivate them.

2.9 Close the Microsoft Edge session/s.

2.10 Open Microsoft Edge and set the Google Scholar libr

What is Google Scholar?

google scholar logo




What is Google Scholar?

According to Google: '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 relevant work across the world of scholarly research.'

Shortcomings of Google Scholar:

  • searches are limited to the articles available in Google Scholar's database and this does not offer comprehensive coverage
  • searches retrieve both peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed information, and it is not yet possible to limit search results to peer-reviewed articles*
  • searches retrieve both view-for-free and view-for-a-fee articles which can present a barrier to access
  • the content for certain disciplines can sometimes be a little dated, so be aware of this when searching Google Scholar (it is likely that the currency of the coverage will improve over time and it will vary from discipline to discipline)

* It is possible to limit searches to peer reviewed articles in the Unisa Library's subscription-based electronic resources. Articles in journals to which the Library does not have a print or an electronic subscription can be requested on Interlibrary Loan (this service is offered to staff, master's and doctoral students).

When should I consult Google Scholar?

  • if you are a novice researcher, the freedom to search using your own words makes the search process easier
  • if you are looking for cross-disciplinary information Google Scholar can be helpful as it searches across all disciplines - it can also inspire ideas for cross-disciplinary research
  • if you need background reading or wish to refine or narrow down your topic before diving into the Unisa Library’s databases, Google Scholar is a good place to start
  • you can use Google Scholar to help you brainstorm keywords and phrases to use for searches on the Library’s electronic resources
  • you can find out what other books and articles have cited an article that you have written or found (the more a work is cited, the more likely it is to be useful and/ or much debated)
  • when you wish to find only scholarly information (that is, avoid popular or less quality-controlled literature)

Original source: Cronin, B (2012) 'Using Google Scholar Effectively'

Google Scholar Library

Google Scholar Library is your personal collection of articles. You can save articles right off the search page, sign in to My Library, organize them by topic, and use the power of a Google Scholar search to quickly find just the one you want - at any time and from anywhere. You decide what goes into your personal library and Google keeps the links up to date.

How do I add an article to My library?  Find the article you want to add in Google Scholar and click the “Save” link under the search result.
How do I find an article in My library?  Click on My library at the top of the Google Scholar homepage or in the left column of a search results page to view all the articles in your library. To search the full text of these articles, enter your query as usual in the search box.

For more information on how to set up your Google Scholar Library, click here.

Google Scholar Proximity Searching

While Google Scholar has no official proximity search function you can use the connector AROUND while searching for words that should be near each other.

 Here are a few tips:

  • Use the AROUND(n) syntax between keywordsAROUND(n) syntax between keywords
  • Use “AROUND” only to search for a term that appears after another term
  • Capitalize “AROUND,” have no space between it and the parenthetical, and include quotation marks around the entire search string.
  • The connector “AROUND” does not work for phrases.


 Here is the take home lesson: you should use the connector “AROUND” to limit the number of irrelevant results but do not rely on it.

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Try it

Google Scholar Search

Found an article on Google Scholar that cannot be viewed for free - what now?

Both the Google Search Engine and Google Scholar retrieve articles that are 'free or fee'. Articles that are not open access are published in commercial databases that require a subscription or a once-off payment before you may view the full text article.

If you encounter a view for a fee/subscription article, the best approach is to look up the journal title on the Unisa Library's e-Journal Finder (see the Find e-journals link on the Library home page) to see if we have the journal in one of our electronic subject databases. You can search by journal title (but not by article title), by subject or by the journal's International Standard Serial Number.

Instructions and tips on using the e-Journal Finder can be found here.