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Google Scholar is a free of charge search engine created by the USA-based Google LLC, and is specialised in searching for scientific information. Google Scholar is a separate search engine application from the Google search engine and it has its own URL. The service has been available since 2004 and can be used in dozens of different languages, Finnish included. This guide presents Google Scholar along with citation databases although it is not an actual database.

Content of the materials and quality assurance

Unlike in the traditional, paid databases (such as Web of Science and Scopus) containing curated data, the automated methods of Google Scholar crawl the net and index any publications they deem to have an academic structure. There is no exact information available on the content, coverage and update frequency of the service. Nevertheless, Google Scholar contains materials from numerous fields of science and sources: studies, presentations, books, abstracts, and articles and their preprint and postprint versions produced by publishers, communities, universities and other scientific organisations. Google Scholar also offers access to paid materials licensed by organisations. Many studies (e.g. Harzing, A.-W., 2019; Martín-Martín, A. et al., 2021) prove that Google Scholar has greater coverage than its competitors in nearly all fields of science.

Google Scholar citation information

Google Scholar includes citation information that shows how often other publications in the service have cited the publication being examined. It should be taken into account that the citation numbers in Google Scholar are much higher than those of Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus. Non-scientific citations are over-represented in the citations, and separating these from the scientific citations is impossible. A further factor increasing Google Scholar’s unreliability as a citation data source is that it is not possible to determine a citation window. Google Scholar is also easily manipulated. Thanks to its extensive content, however, Google Scholar can be useful especially in fields where citation numbers are usually low or for young researchers, whose publications are not widely available in the WoS and Scopus databases.

Basic functionalities of the search engine

Google Scholar features both basic and advanced searches, but its search functions are fairly undeveloped when compared with the commercial databases. For example, there are no indices to search for different spellings of the names of authors, journals or organisations. At its best, Google Scholar is a fast tool for locating a particular individual publication and checking the citations it has collected as well as reviewing whether your organisation has a licence for the publication in question. The database’s functions are too undeveloped for any more extensive bibliometric analyses.

The search results of Google Scholar can contain different types of results. They may contain a link to the full text, only the abstract or just a citation. The search results are arranged based on Google Scholar’s own ranking system. There are no specific details available about the Google Scholar ranking system, but it seems that the number of citations received by a publication is a fairly strong determining factor in the ranking order. Therefore, the latest publications are not always at the beginning of the results list.

If there are several versions available of the same publication, Google Scholar will connect these in the same group. The full text of a journal article is assessed as the best representation of it. The other versions of an article may include publications about the same research work released before the actual journal article, such as preprints, abstracts and conference publications. The search result also includes a link to the publication’s full text if the user is accessing the internet via the network of their own university and if the organisation has a user licence to the publication. Open Access publications are also available.

Figure 1. Google Scholar search results when searching for a person by name: [1] Search results for author name JE Hirsch. [2] Google Scholar offers fairly limited options for filtering the search results. [3] If the person has created a Google Scholar research profile, the information about this will be shown at the top of the search results. [4] Number of citations to an individual publication; the link will reveal the details of the citing publications. [5] The link on the right takes you to the publication’s full text if you have a user licence to it or if it is an Open Access publication. Image source: Google Scholar <> 3 February 2023

Google Scholar Researcher Profiles

Google Scholar does not create profile pages for researchers automatically, but researchers can create an account in the service if they wish and collect their articles in the service on the "My Profile" page. The profile can be public or private.

Profile benefits:

  • All your publications in the same place
  • Statistics and tracking of citations received by the publication
  • H-index of all publications and from the past five years
  • i10 index, i.e. the number of publications cited more than ten times
  • Public profiles are shown as links in Google Scholar search results.
  • When searching by an author’s name in Google Scholar, the public profile will be shown as the first search result.

Figure 2. The Google Scholar profile of researcher J.E. Hirsch: [1] publications in the profile can be sorted based on their title, the number of citations or year of publication. [2] The profile shows the citations received by the author’s publications, their h-index and their i10 index from across their career and from the past five years. Additionally, by clicking the publication’s name, you can view the details of the publication in question and by clicking the number of citations you can view the publications citing it. Image source: Google Scholar <> 3 February 2023

Limitations and criticism

  • There is no exact information available on the contents, the coverage and update frequency of the material.
  • The number of citations can also decrease if the search engine cannot find the publications it has already indexed, which causes it to remove these citations.
  • In addition to scientific materials, Google Scholar also includes a lot of non-scientific material that has not been curated. Non-scientific citations have an over-representation in the citations.
  • The content can be manipulated easily. Read more about the subject in the article López-Cózar E.D., Robinson-García N., Torres-Salinas D. (2014) The Google scholar experiment: How to index false papers and manipulate bibliometric indicators. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 65(3), 446-454
  • The search functions are undeloped compared to the commercial databases, and the service is not well suited to carrying out more extensive bibliometric analyses.
  • Offers a very limited number of publication-based indicators.


Google (no date) About Google Scholar. [Online] Available: [Accessed 18.2.2022]

Google Scholar (2022a) Hakutulos henkilön nimellä haettaessa [screenshot]. Available: [Accessed 13.4.2022]

Google Scholar (2022b) Google Scholar profiili [screenshot]. Available: [Accessed 13.4.2022]

Harzing, A.-W. (2019) Two new kids on the block: How do Crossref and Dimensions compare with Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Scopus and the Web of Science? Scientometrics, 120(1), pp. 341–349. Available:

Martín-Martín, A., Thelwall, M., Orduna-Malea, E., and López-Cózar, E.D. (2021) Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Scopus, Dimensions, Web of Science, and OpenCitations’ COCI: A multidisciplinary comparison of coverage via citations. Scientometrics, 126, pp. 871–906 (2021). Available:

Oulun yliopiston kirjasto. LibGuides (no date) Tieteellisiin julkaisuihin pohjautuva arviointi: Google Scholar. [Online] Available: [Updated 5.5.2022]

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