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Information literacy ~ Wetenschapseducatie en Communicatie: Finding information on the internet

Academic literature on the internet

Search engines such as Google only enable you to retrieve a very small part of all existing academic literature, because they do not have access to the databases that are used by libraries for library catalogues and bibliographies and to full-text publishers' databases.

However, you may sometimes come across relevant references using Google, for example via publishers’ websites or the personal web pages of academics. 

Google Scholar offers an alternative. See elsewhere on this page.

Looking for information on the internet

Google is currently the most popular search engine and has the largest database, with billions of web pages, other types of documents (e.g. PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and images. Because the internet and the Google database are so huge, your search will always produce results, but not all of them will be reliable or relevant to your search question.  Scanning the information you find is a very time-consuming process. 

During your study you will be warned time and again by your teachers about the quality of the search results you find using Google (or another search engine). Always check your search results critically! In the chapter 'Evaluating the quality of internet sites' you will find more information enabling you to distinguish between reliable and unreliable websites. 

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine for searching in a growing collection of academic publications that cannot be found using the ‘standard’ Google search engine. Some publishers have given Google Scholar access to the full text of their online journals. You can also use Google Scholar to find citations  and references to books.


Library links in Google Scholar

You can also set Google Scholar to show which publications are available via the University of Groningen:

  • Select ‘Settings’ (top right)
  • Select ‘Library links’
  • Search for: university groningen
  • Tick: University of Groningen Library – Get It! Univ of Groningen (un-tick other options)

You will now be able to see, via the Get it! link, whether a document is available through the RUG.

N.B. If you are working via the University network, these links are automatically selected. 

Search tips for Google (Scholar)

Here are a few tips for faster and more efficient searching using Google (Scholar).

  • Never use just one word in your search; always use at least two words that are very relevant to your research question.
  • Use Boolean operators or Google Advanced Search to make different search combinations. You can find more on Boolean operators under 'Search techniques and search tips'. 
  • Use quotation marks for combined search terms or phrases in Google. (E.g. "Second World War" or "quantum mechanics"). This is also useful when looking for names: "Elmer Sterken"or "Spatial Sciences".
  • If you are looking for a particular type of document, type in the document extension (e.g. pdf, doc, xls, flash) in your search command.

Google also has a page containing search tips.