Google Scholar is a Google search engine that indexes academic-type material, so it's a great starting point for any academic search.
It indexes academic texts such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports, and will retrieve information from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as electronic journal articles. In many cases it indexes the full text of items, rather than merely bibliographic information, although the full text will not necessarily be available.
There's a lot of tempting looking links on a Google Scholar results page and you might want to follow them expecting it to work like normal Google. But they'll usually just take you to a paywall. The actual important stuff is elsewhere.
Let's take a look at the results page for a typical Google Scholar search:
Contains Advanced search and Settings. Use the latter to set up Library links.
Sign into Google with your University account and have Scholar remember items saved to My library.
Apply limits to your search, change the way it's sorted, and set up alerts.
If there's a full text available there'll be a link shown on the right-hand side. Add more sources (including the University Library) in Settings > Library links.
If you're on campus, the "eresources@qmu" links will appear automatically, but otherwise you'll need to set them up:
Once you've done that, follow the links to check Discover and see if the Library has a copy of what you've found.
Under the hamburger menu (☰) you'll find Advanced search which gives you a lot more control over your search.
The ☆ Save buttons beneath each result work with the ★ My Library feature at the top right and are handy for managing your reading or for exporting several results to reference management software.
For any article you can also see Related articles (though quite how that's determined is up to Google), while the Cited by button on each result lets you see what other articles indexed in Google Scholar have cited this one (another useful way to find related articles).
Under the hamburger menu (☰) in Google Scholar you'll find Advanced search which gives you a lot more control over your search.
Let's take a look at each of the options:
This is effectively the default search mode in Google Scholar: an article must contain all of the words in this box. A search for dogs cats mice would find anything that mentioned all three animals somewhere in the text, but if an article only mentioned dogs and cats (no mice) it shouldn't be included in the results.
dogs cats mice
This style of searching is what's called implicit AND because it's searching for articles that contain dogs and cats and mice.
In the previous search, our terms could appear anywhere in the document. With this one they have to appear as written. A search in this box for ah good the sea would return only one of the following snippets (all of which would be returned by the previous search):
"ah good the sea"
The above is what you'll see in the search box once you've run the search. You can perform this kind of search without using the "Advanced search" form by just putting your exact phrase in "double quotes like this". This technique is called phrase searching and the double quotes are what we'd call an operator: something which when used in a search box performs a specific special task.
This box will return items that mention any of the entered words. A search in this box for whale dolphin orca narwhal will find items where at least one of those words appears:
whale OR dolphin OR orca OR narwhal
Once you've run the search, you'll see the above in your search box — your terms joined with the OR operator. The same operator works in a normal Google search, and in many other search engines and databases.
Use this technique to search for alternate ways of expressing a concept. For instance, a useful search might be orca OR "killer whale" OR orcas OR "killer whales".
Documents that mention the words you put in this box will be excluded from your results. If you had leonardo in any of the first boxes and dicaprio in this box you will get matches for any document mentioning leonardo so long as it doesn't also mention dicaprio:
Once you've run the search, you'll get the above in the search box. Here the minus sign - in front of "dicaprio" is serving as what we might call a NOT operator: leonardo NOT dicaprio. Most databases will actually use the word NOT for this, rather than the minus sign, but the minus sign remains common in internet search engines like Google.
If you were searching for information about York but kept getting results about New York, you could do a search for york -"new york" and this will filter out any documents mentioning "New York". But be careful... maybe a really good article about York also mentions New York somewhere in it.
The rest of the options are a little more nuanced. In most cases they're ways in which you can limit your search...
Google Scholar is often able to search the full text of an article, but that can mean you get an awful lot of results. You might therefore want to limit the target of your searching to just the title of an article. Article titles are usually very descriptive so this can be a good way of making sure the article has your search terms as its focus. But obviously there are risks to this approach: a smaller target is harder to hit, and not all titles will be as descriptive as you'd like.
Maybe you're interested in a specific author. You can use this box to search for authors by name, and by combining this field with other boxes on the 'Advanced search' screen you can even search within a particular author's body of work.
It may be that you're only interested in articles published in a specific journal, or in a journal with particular words in the title. If that's the case then this is the box for you!
Sometimes you'll only be interested in articles from a specific period in time — perhaps you just want recent articles, or perhaps you're after articles from a particular point in the past. In these boxes you can set a date range for your search.
Most of the above examples can also be used in other databases too...