Google Scholar

Google Scholar (external link) is a freely accessible web search engine for academic documents. Google Scholar indexes full texts and metadata of academic articles, patents and books from all disciplines. To this end, Google Scholar uses web documents in PDF or HTML format that are classified as “academic” based on their structure and URL (see Google Scholar inclusion guidelines (external link)). 


Google Scholar is freely accessible.

Access to full texts is licence-dependent. If full texts of publications are licensed by ETH Library, students and other members of ETH Zurich can access them only if they are logged onto ETH Library’s network. If they are outside the ETH Zurich network, they need to have configured VPN (external link).

To display ETH Library full texts in Google Scholar,

  1. click on the link (external link) then
  2. confirm by clicking on “Save”.

Links to online holdings are then displayed in the search hits as ETH-Bibliothek-SFX. Links to print holdings are displayed with Find in NEBIS after clicking on the symbol >> (see image below).


Google Scholar results with settings for members of ETH Zurich. The link “ETH-Bibliothek-SFX” leads to the online version of the documents (circled in red). The link “Find in NEBIS” leads to the order of the print edition (circled in red).

Google Scholar versus Scopus or Web of Science

With Google Scholar, the search hits are determined by sophisticated algorithms, which are not published, however. Unfortunately, the sequence of the search hits displayed by Google Scholar, and the number of citations, are particularly easy to manipulate (see Wikipedia (external link)). By contrast, the methods deployed by the databases Web of Science and Scopus (external link) are transparent. As the latter use strict quality criteria, they index fewer documents than Google Scholar. Furthermore, Web of Science and Scopus offer advanced search and filter options, which are lacking in Google Scholar.

Google Scholar is, therefore, less transparent than traditional library databases but offers high-quality full-text searches across a particularly large number of documents.

Courses and tutorials

Is Google enough? – finding scientific information

Efficient search – Web of Science and Scopus