1. How is Google Scholar compared to other academic search engines and catalogues such as ScienceDirect, Scopus, and universities' own online catalogues--in terms of the following?

    • comprehensiveness of search (i.e. can fetch all the ever published relevant titles, whether the user have access to full-texts or not)
    • accuracy and precision of results
    • advanced search features
    • usability
  2. Are there good reasons for (or against) using Google Scholar as the only literature search tool for PhD research?

  3. Does the answer of (2) depend on the research discipline?

  • 6
    I'll leave giving a formal answer to someone who has more to say about part 1 (for example, I've never used Scopus), but as for 2 and 3, using just one literature search tool for PhD research seems incredibly limiting. I can only imagine doing that in a field where you never need to refer to anything that's not recent and available online. Only a handful of fields could satisfy that, and even then restricting yourself only to Google Scholar seems silly. Apr 10, 2013 at 13:11
  • 4
    Regarding 2: on the contrary, I'd encourage you to use every search tool you can find. Apr 10, 2013 at 13:24
  • 3
    I wouldn't count on google scholar existing 2 or 3 years from now. It's exactly the kind of product they've been "spring cleaning." Apr 10, 2013 at 13:41
  • 3
    One problem with Google Scholar is that you can't document the search. I can do a search on Pubmed, and tell you my search terms (and other restrictions). You can do a search and get the same results - like other research, it sometimes helps if your results are reproducible. Apr 10, 2013 at 18:12
  • 5
    There are no good reasons for using X as the only tool for Y, regardless of the values of X and Y.
    – JeffE
    Apr 10, 2013 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


There has already been much scholarship on the comparison of different academic search databases. I leave it to you to ascertain the usefulness of Google Scholar versus all the other usual suspects. Here, here, here, here and here are some of the prime literature on this topic.

The real answer of course, to all your sub points is, it depends.

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