Academic Search Tools

Scholarly Content Online

There are some specialized search tools on the internet that target academic audiences. Perhaps the most popular one is Google Scholar, which looks for academic, scholarly content. Another tool is Microsoft Academic Search. There are also a few subject-specific search tools that you might want to become familiar with, such as PubMed (for the biomedical field) or ERIC (for the education field).


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Typically, you would find scholarly content using a library database, but the tools described above can also help connect you to scholarly content that your college subscribes to. The problem—especially for community college students—is that these tools also find a lot of resources that your college might not subscribe to.

For this reason, a lot of the content these search tools will find is behind something called a paywall. A paywall is a barrier you may encounter online, when you have to pay before you can access a resource. Scholarly journal articles you find online come with a price, which can range anywhere from $25 per article up to well over $100 per article!

In our scenario, you have to find 10 resources. That means, for this class assignment, it might cost you anywhere from $250 to over $1000 to complete. At this point, you might be thinking that these academic search tools are not worth using, and we wouldn’t blame you. But these tools don’t always lead you to a paywall, and a paywall is not always a dead end. These tools can  help you identify resources that might also be available for free in library databases your college subscribes to, and these tools will often connect you to open access resources.


Image: “Lock” by Those Icons, adapted by Aloha Sargent, from


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Introduction to College Research Copyright © by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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