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Search methods & techniques: Get the most out of Google Books

Google Books and how it is different from Google Scholar

Much like Google Scholar, Google Books is no replacement for the library or for sEURch, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. Here, we will explore how you can get the most out of Google Books to help you in your research journey.

Google Books works much in the same way as searching in Google or Google Scholar. Here the difference is that you will be given links to both non-academic and academic books based on your search terms. This is where Google Books differs from Google Scholar as Scholar does not generally index books, and, in some cases, depending on how Google indexed the items in its catalog, you might even find articles in Google Books particularly from older journals from the 20th century or prior.

When using Google Books, just putting in your search terms probably isn’t going to help you that much as you will receive a deluge of books many of which are not going to be academic and therefore unlikely to be of use to you. Where Google Books can shine is if you know a book you are thinking of using as a source and you want to check to see if it is helpful for your research, but you do not have easy access to it through the library.

Using Google Books

Say you are working on a project about the effects of farming on the habitat of waterfowl in the United States. Some of the books you are thinking of researching can be found as E-books or can be checked out as physical copies through the library. Others though are a bit harder to come by, and you would need to order them via interlibrary loan, but you are not even sure if you need these books and if you want to go through the trouble of ordering them. In this case, we can save time by looking up the books in Google Books.

For this example, say you want to look at the report from the US Department of Agriculture titled, “Managing farm fields, wetlands, and waters for wild ducks in the South” which is not available at the EUR.


Since Google has digitized many of the world’s books, many, though not all, can be read and searched either in whole or in the “Snippet View.” Now, let’s look up the report in Google Books.



What you find is that two versions of the report are available, one of which can be viewed and one which cannot. You should choose the version which can be read, and click on “read” which will take you to the book where you can either scroll through it or use the search bar at the bottom to look for key words or phrases.




In this case, if you want to know if mallard ducks are discussed in the report, you can search for the word “Mallard,” and now you can see everywhere in the report which discusses these noble creatures of the wetlands.



Using Google Books like this can give you a better idea if you want to try and get the book via interlibrary loan, or you might not need to order it at all if the book is completely available on Google Books.

Searching by date

Much like in Google Scholar, while the search functions in Google Books are not fantastic, there are some tools available to help narrow your search. The most helpful is the “Tools” function, which is located under the search bar, and after clicking on it, click on the “any time” dropdown menu. This will help you to narrow down what period you are searching in. If you are only interested in books published in the 21st century, click on 21st century. If you have something narrower in mind like 1976 to 1988, click on “Custom Range” and put in the dates you are interested in.