Searching for scholarly information can often feel like detective work. Some students are able to solve the mystery right away, while others gather clues that eventually lead them to the ideal source. Google Scholar is often the primary point-of-entry for students. Some may feel comfortable with the familiar interface, or perhaps they are used to searching using natural language. While the simplicity of Google Scholar is appealing, there are general ideas of when and how to use this specific type of searching.
One of the strengths of Google Scholar is its ability to search beyond one discipline; for those early in their researching or trying to broadly understand a topic, Google Scholar is a great place to start. If you are connected through IU Secure, then Google Scholar will denote whether there is an IU Bloomington link or if it is provided through Open WorldCat. This feature (located in Settings > Library links) locates full-access items when IU Libraries has a license or subscription, which are likely to be scholarly information. However, it’s important to note that there is no way to limit items that are peer-reviewed. Since Google Scholar has a large breadth of resources, it can be difficult identifying if sources are truly scholarly.
This is where the Libraries’ databases can help. IU Libraries subscribe to many discipline-specific databases. The best place to locate resources associated with a discipline is to view the Research A-Z page. If you are interested in browsing all of the databases available, Resources A-Z is your best bet. These databases can be specialized, but there are other useful tools that are also cross-disciplinary.
One example is a citation database known as Scopus. The focus of Scopus is to create visibility to the people and places that conduct research. Although Google Scholar does have a “Cited By” feature, it is not as robust as Scopus; the reason that Scopus can identify people and research more efficiently is due to its ability to blend automated and manually-curated data to author profiles. Once an author’s profile has been validated, the author and Scopus can link appropriate sources; this is where Google Scholar differs, as it requires users to self-submit publications and update any additions.
Of course, Scopus is just one example from the hundreds of databases available at IU. Books and other publications are located throughout campus libraries. If you are needing further assistance with locating and evaluating sources, feel free to reach out to a subject librarian.
To find the appropriate subject librarian, search the Research A-Z page for your discipline of choice and look for the contact information for the corresponding librarian in the upper right-hand corner. All disciplines have a subject librarian who would be happy to help composite a list of resources and tools to aid your search.
Thank you for this valuable resource. The link to SCOPUS does not work.
Jennifer — I just checked that link and verified that it works. This might be a resource that is licensed only to IU IP addresses, meaning you could only see it if you were on campus or using a VPN connection (I’ve run into that problem before myself). More on access issues at https://libraries.indiana.edu/getting-connected.