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I want to use and compare the results of the three different databases: Web of Science (WoS), Scopus and Google Scholar

WoS and Scopus can be searched pretty clearly using boolean operators and their advanced search. E.g. if I want to search for the following query (made up example) in WoS TS=("heating" OR "AC") AND ALL=("window" OR "door" OR "wall" OR "roof" OR "floor") AND ALL=city, I will get all publications with heating or AC within the topic and window ordoor or wall or roof or floor and city within the whole publication. Same works for Scopus using their advanced search.

But if I try to use boolean operators within Google Scholar, my query gets mixed up. If I use the same query adjusted to Google Scholar ("heating" OR "AC") AND ("window" OR "door" OR "wall" OR "roof" OR "floor") AND city, Google Scholars advanced search ignores the parentheses, which results in one big OR-operator and therefore not precise search results: screenshot of Google Scholars advanced search

Is there a way to search for multiple different OR-conditions within one query?

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    Ask the big advertising company (Alphabet) which owns the closed-source and obscure algorithm product called google scholar.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 22:08
  • @EarlGrey How would you go about asking them? Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 16:11
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    @JamesMartin exactly. Please stop using obscure tools that are just exploiting the work of others, with no real benefits.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 8:45
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    I wonder if there would be interest in creating an open-source alternative to Google scholar with the goal of supporting similar use cases. I would certainly be interested. Commented May 15, 2023 at 15:54
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    @EarlGrey too bad that if you don't pay a subscription you can't use WoS or Scopus. So easy to say when you have access to those and many people don't Commented May 15, 2023 at 16:22

1 Answer 1

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The short answer is no.

The long answer is no, and you probably shouldn't even try because, as you have found out, the advanced search features of Google Scholar are limited. Complex statements are not really supported (from what I can tell), although you can use some basic Boolean operators. I've only found reference to those in University guides and not official documentation. This obviously works, but it seems manually entered search terms are just forced into the limited advanced search format.

In case you did not know, there is also a fairly restrictive 256 character limit on search terms, a 1000-result limit, and no way to export results in bulk. This is on top of the nebulous Google search algorithm.

It should be clear by now that Google Scholar cannot safely be used to run repeatable searches for academic purposes. If you're interested this is a relatively recent survey of academic databases and search engines. It's certainly a useful tool for conducting a less formal search, it captures a ton of so-called "grey" literature. But really, it should only be used as a supplement.

If you're interested in comparing search terms for some sort of research methods assessment then go ahead and report that you cannot, in fact, run this type of search in Google Scholar. If you are trying to replicate a search term for the purposes of a lit review, I would advise you to stay away from Google Scholar, or at the very least, modify your search term in such a way as to circumvent the limitations.

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