28 Best Academic Search Engines That make your research easier

28 Best Academic Search Engines That make your research easier

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If you’re a researcher or scholar, you know that conducting effective online research is a critical part of your job. And if you’re like most people, you’re always on the lookout for new and better ways to do it. 

I’m sure you are familiar with some research databases. But, top researchers keep an open mind and are always looking for inspiration in unexpected places. 

This article aims to give you an edge over researchers that rely mainly on Google for their entire research process.

Our list of 28 academic search engines will start with the more familiar to less.

#1. Google Scholar

Academic Search Engines

Google Scholar is an academic search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.

Great for academic research, you can use Google Scholar to find articles from academic journals, conference proceedings, theses, and dissertations. The results returned by Google Scholar are typically more relevant and reliable than those from regular search engines like Google.

Tip: You can restrict your results to peer-reviewed articles only by clicking on the “Scholarly”

✔Pros:

  • Scholarly results are typically more relevant and reliable than those from regular search engines like Google.
  • You can restrict your results to peer-reviewed articles only by clicking on the “Scholarly” tab.
  • Google Scholar database Coverage is extensive, with approx. 200 million articles indexed.
  • Abstracts are available for most articles.
  • Related articles are shown, as well as the number of times an article has been cited.
  • Links to full text are available for many articles.

✘Cons:

  • Abstracts are only a snippet of the full article, so you might need to do additional searching to get the full information you need.
  • Not all articles are available in full text.

$ Pricing:

Google Scholar is completely free.

#2. ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) 

ERIC (short for educational resources information center) is a great academic search engine that focuses on education-related literature. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and produced by the Institute of Education Sciences. 

ERIC indexes over a million articles, reports, conference papers, and other resources on all aspects of education from early childhood to higher education. So, search results are more relevant to Education on ERIC. 

✔Pros:

  • Extensive coverage: ERIC indexes over a million articles, reports, and other resources on all aspects of education from early childhood to higher education.
  • You can limit your results to peer-reviewed journals by clicking on the “Peer-Reviewed” tab.
  • Great search engine for educators, as abstracts are available for most articles.
  • Related articles are shown, as well as the number of times an article has been cited.

✘Cons:

  • Not all articles are available in full text.
  • Abstracts are only a snippet of the full article, so you might need to do additional searching to get the full information you need.

$ Pricing:

ERIC is a free online database of education-related literature. 

#3. Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is a “computational knowledge engine” that can answer factual questions posed in natural language. It can be a useful search tool. 

Type in a question like “What is the square root of 64?” or “What is the boiling point of water?” and Wolfram Alpha will give you an answer.

Wolfram Alpha can also be used to find academic articles. Just type in your keywords and Wolfram Alpha will generate a list of academic articles that match your query.

Tip: You can restrict your results to peer-reviewed journals by clicking on the “Scholarly” tab.

✔Pros:

  • Can answer factual questions posed in natural language.
  • Can be used to find academic articles.
  • Results are ranked by relevance.
  • Abstracts are available for most articles.

✘Cons:

  • Not all articles are available in full text.
  • Results can be overwhelming, so it’s important to narrow down your search criteria as much as possible.
  • The experience feels a bit more structured but it could also be a bit restrictive

$ Pricing:

Wolfram Alpha offers a few pricing options, including a “Pro” subscription that gives you access to additional features, such as the ability to create custom reports. You can also purchase individual articles or download them for offline use.

Pro costs $5.49 and Pro Premium costs $9.99

#4. iSEEK Education 

iSEEK is a search engine targeting students, teachers, administrators, and caregiver. It’s designed to be safe with editor-reviewed content.

iSEEK Education also includes a “Cited by” feature which shows you how often an article has been cited by other researchers.

✔Pros:

  • Editor-reviewed content.
  • “Cited by” feature shows how often an article has been cited by other researchers.

✘Cons:

  • Limited to academic content.
  • Doesn’t have the breadth of coverage that some of the other academic search engines have.

$ Pricing:

iSEEK Education is free to use.

#5. BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine)

BASE is hosted at Bielefeld University in Germany and that’s where it name stems from (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine). 

Known as “one of the most comprehensive academic web search engines,” it contains over 100 million documents from 4,000 different sources. 

Users can narrow their search using the advanced search option, so regardless of whether you need a book, a review, a lecture, a video or a thesis, BASE has what you need.

BASE indexes academic articles from a variety of disciplines, including the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

✔Pros:

  • One of the world’s most voluminous search engines, 
  • Indexes academic articles from a variety of disciplines, especially for academic web resources
  • Includes an “Advanced Search” feature that lets you restrict your results to peer-reviewed journals.

✘Cons:

  • Doesn’t have the breadth of coverage that some of the other academic search engines have.
  • Doesn’t include abstracts for most articles.
  • Doesn’t have related articles, references, cited by

$ Pricing:

BASE is free to use.

#6. CORE

CORE is an academic search engine that focuses on open access research papers. A link to the full text PDF or complete text web page is supplied for each search result. It’s academic search engine dedicated to open access research papers.

✔Pros:

  • Focused on open access research papers.
  • Links to full text PDF or complete text web page are supplied for each search result.
  • Export formats include BibTeX, Endnote, RefWorks, Zotero.

✘Cons:

  • Coverage is limited to open access research papers.
  • No abstracts are available for most articles.
  • No related articles, references, or cited by features.

$ Pricing:

CORE is free to use.

#7. Science.gov

Science.gov is a search engine developed and managed by the United States government. It includes results from a variety of scientific databases, including NASA, EPA, USGS, and NIST. 

US students are more likely to have early exposure to this tool for scholarly research. 

✔Pros:

  • Coverage from a variety of scientific databases (200 million articles and reports).
  • Abstracts are available for most articles.
  • Links to full text are available for some articles.
  • Export formats include BibTeX, Endnote, RefWorks, Zotero.

✘Cons:

  • No related articles, references, or cited by features.
  • Limited to academic content.

$ Pricing:

Science.gov is free to use.

#8. Semantic Scholar

Semantic Scholar is a recent entrant to the field. Its goal is to provide more relevant and effective search results via artificial intelligence-powered methods that detect hidden relationships and connections between research topics.

✔Pros:

  • Powered by artificial intelligence, which enhances search results.
  • Covers a large number of academic articles (approx. 40 million).
  • Abstracts are available for most articles.
  • Related articles, references, and cited by features are all included.
  • Links to full text are available for most articles.

✘Cons:

  • Limited to academic content.

$ Pricing:

Semantic Scholar is free to use.

#9. RefSeek

RefSeek searches more than five billion documents, including web pages, books, encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers.

This is one of the free search engines that feels like Yahoo with a massive directory. It could be good when you are just looking for research ideas from unexpected angles. It could lead you to some other database that you might not know such as the CIA The World Factbook, which is a great reference tool.

✔Pros:

  • Searches more than five billion documents.
  • The Documents tab is very focused on research papers and easy to use.
  • Results can be filtered by date, type of document, and language.
  • Export formats include BibTeX, Endnote, RefWorks, Zotero.
  • Good source for free academic articles, open access journals, and technical reports.

✘Cons:

  • The navigation and user experience is very dated even to millenials…
  • It requires more than 3 clicks to dig up interesting references (which is how it could lead to you something beyond the 1st page of Google)
  • The top part of the results are ALL ads (well… it’s free to use)

$ Pricing:

RefSeek is free to use.

#10. ResearchGate 

A mixture of social networking site + forum + content databases where researchers can build their profile, share research papers, and interact with one another.

Although it is not an academic search engine that goes outside of its site, ResearchGate‘s library of works offers an excellent choice for any curious scholar.

There are more than 100 million publications available on the site from over 11 million researchers. It is possible to search by publication, data, and author, as well as to ask the researchers questions. 

✔Pros:

  • A great place to find research papers and researchers.
  • Can follow other researchers and get updates when they share new papers or make changes to their profile.
  • The network effect can be helpful in finding people who have expertise in a particular topic.

✘Cons:

  • Interface is not as user friendly
  • Can be overwhelming when trying to find relevant papers.
  • Some papers are behind a paywall.

$ Pricing:

ResearchGate is free to use.

#11. DataONE Search (formerly CiteULike) 

A social networking site for academics who want to share and discover academic articles and papers.

✔Pros:

  • A great place to find academic papers that have been shared by other academics.
  • Can follow other researchers and get updates when they share new papers or make changes to their profile.
  • The network effect can be helpful in finding people who have expertise in a particular topic.

✘Cons:

  • Some papers are behind a paywall

$ Pricing:

CiteULike is free to use.

#12. DataElixir 

DataElixir is deigned to help you find, understand and use data. It includes a curated list of the best open datasets, tools and resources for data science.

✔Pros:

  • Dedicated resource for finding open data sets, tools, and resources for data science.
  • The website is easy to navigate.
  • The content is updated regularly
  • The resources are grouped by category.

✘Cons:

  • Not all of the resources are applicable to academic research.
  • Some of the content is outdated.

$ Pricing:

DataElixir is free to use.

#13. LazyScholar – browser extension

LazyScholar is a free browser plugin that helps you discover free academic full texts, metrics, and instant citation and sharing links. Lazy Scholar is created Colby Vorland, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University.

Pros:

  • It can integrate with your library to find full texts even when you’re off-campus.
  • Saves your history and provides an interface to find it.
  • A pre-formed citation is availlable in over 900 citation styles.
  • Can recommend you topics and scans new PubMed listings to suggest new papers

✘Cons:

  • Results can be a bit hit or miss

$ Pricing:

LazyScholar is free to use.

#14. CiteseerX – digital library from PenState

CiteseerX is a digital library stores and indexes research articles in Computer Science and related fields. The site has a robust search engine that allows you to filter results by date, author.

✔Pros:

  • Searches a large number of academic papers.
  • Results can be filtered by date, author, and topic.
  • The website is easy to use.
  • You can create an account and save your searches for future reference.

✘Cons:

  • Some papers are behind a paywall

$ Pricing:

CiteseerX is free to use.

The Lens or the Patent Lens is an online patent and scholarly literature search facility, provided by Cambia, an Australia-based non-profit organization.

✔Pros:

  • Searches for a large number of academic papers.
  • Results can be filtered by date, author, and topic.
  • The website is easy to use.
  • You can create an account and save your searches for future reference.

✘Cons:

  • Some papers are behind a paywall

$ Pricing:

The price range can be free for non-profit use to $5,000 for commercial enterprise.

#16. Fatcat – wiki for bibliographic catalog 

Fatcat is an open bibliographic catalog of written works. The scope of works is somewhat flexible, with a focus on published research outputs like journal articles, pre-prints, and conference proceedings. Records are collaboratively editable, versioned, available in bulk form, and include URL-agnostic file-level metadata.

✔Pros:

  • Open source and collaborative
  • You can be part of the community that is very focused on its mission
  • The archival file-level metadata (verified digests and long-term copies) is a great feature.

✘Cons:

  • Could prove to be another rabbit hole
  • People either love or hate the text-only interface

Are you researching legal topics? You can turn to Lexis Web for any law-related questions you may have. The results are drawn from legal sites and can be filtered based on criteria such as news, blogs, government, and commercial. Additionally, users can filter results by jurisdiction, practice area, source and file format.

✔Pros:

  • Results are drawn from legal sites.
  • Filters are available based on criteria such as news, blogs, government, and commercial.
  • Users can filter results by jurisdiction, practice area, source and file format.

✘Cons:

  • Not all law-related questions will be answered by this search engine.
  • Coverage is limited to legal sites only.

$ Pricing:

Lexis Web is free for up to three searches per day. After that, a subscription is required.

#18. Infotopia – part of the VLRC family

Infotopia touts itself as an “alternative to Google safe search.” Scholarly book results are curated by librarians, teachers, and other educational workers. Users can select from a range of topics such as art, health, and science and technology, and then see a list of resources pertaining to the topic. 

Consequently, if you aren’t able to find what you are looking for within Infotopia’s pages, you will probably find it on one of its many suggested websites.

#19. Virtual Learning Resources Center

Virtual Learning Resources Center (VLRC) is an academic search engine that features thousands of academic sites chosen by educators and librarians worldwide. Using an index generated from a research portal, university, and library internet subject guides, students and instructors can find current, authoritative information for school.

✔Pros:

  • Thousands of academic information websites indexed by it. You will also be able to get more refined results with custom Google search, which will speed up your research. 
  • Many people consider VLRC as one of the best free search engines to start looking for research material. 
  • TeachThought rated the Virtual LRC #3 in it’s list of 100 Search Engines For Academic Research

✘Cons:

  • More relevant to education 
  • More relevant to students

#20. Jurn

Powered by Google Custom Search Engine (CSE), Jurn is a free online search engine for accessing and downloading free full-text scholarly papers. It was created by David Haden in a public open beta version in February 2009, initially for locating open access electronic journal articles in the arts and humanities.

After the indexing process was completed, a website containing additional public directories of web links to indexed publications was introduced in mid-2009. The Jurn search service and directory has been regularly modified and cleaned since then.

✔Pros:

  • A great resource for finding academic papers that are behind paywalls.
  • The website is easy to navigate.
  • The content is updated regularly.uren

✔Cons:

  • Not all of the resources are applicable to academic research.

$ Pricing:

Jurn is free to use.

#21. WorldWideScience

The Office of Scientific and Technical Information—a branch of the Office of Science within the U.S. Department of Energy—hosts the portal WorldWideScience, which has dubbed itself “The Global Science Gateway.”

Over 70 countries’ databases are used on the website. When a user enters a query, it contacts databases from all across the world and shows results in both English and translated journals and academic resources.

✔Pros:

  • Results can be filtered by language and type of resource
  • Interface is easy to use
  • Contains both academic journal articles and translated academic resources 

✘Cons:

  • Some of the content is outdated.
  • Not all of the resources are applicable to academic research.
  • The website can be difficult to navigate.

$ Pricing:

WorldWideScience is free to use.

#22. Google Books

A user can browse thousands of books on Google Books, from popular titles to old titles, to find pages that include their search terms. You can look through pages, read online reviews, and find out where to buy a hard copy once you find the book you are interested in.

#23. DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals)

DOAJ is a free search engine for scientific and scholarly materials. It is a searchable database with over 8,000 peer-reviewed research papers organized by subject. It’s one of the most comprehensive libraries of scientific and scholarly resources, with over 8,000 journals available on a variety of themes.

#24. Baidu Scholar

Baidu Xueshu (Academic) is the Chinese version for Google Scholar. IDU Scholar indexes academic papers from a variety of disciplines in both Chinese and English.

✔Pros:

  • Articles are available in full text PDF.
  • Covers a variety of academic disciplines.
  • No abstracts are available for most articles, but summaries are provided for some.
  • A great portal that takes you to different specialized research platform

✘Cons:

  • You need to be able to read Chinese to use the site
  • Since 2021 there is a rise of focus on China and the Chinese Communist Party

$ Pricing:

Baidu Scholar is free to use.

#25. PubMed Central

PubMed is a free search engine that provides references and abstracts for medical, life sciences, and biomedical topics.

If you’re studying anything related to healthcare or science, this site is perfect. PublicMed Central is operated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It contains more than 3 million full-text journal articles. 

It’s similar to PubMed Health, which focuses on health-related research and includes abstracts and citations to over 26 million articles.

#26. MEDLINE®

MEDLINE® is a paid subscription database for life sciences and biomedicine that includes more than 28 million citations to journal articles. For finding reliable, carefully chosen health information, Medline Plus provides a powerful search tool and even a dictionary.

Pros:

  • A great database for life sciences and biomedicine.
  • Contains more than 28 million references to journal articles.
  • References can be filtered by date, type of document, and language.

✔Cons:

  • The database is expensive to access.
  • Some people find it difficult to navigate and find what they are looking for.

$ Pricing:

MEDLINE is not free to use ( pricing information ).

Defunct Academic Search Engines 

#27. Microsoft Academic 

Microsoft Academic

Microsoft Academic Search seemed to be a failure from the beginning. It ended in 2012, then re-launched in 2016 as Microsoft Academic. It provides the researcher with the opportunity to search academic publications,

Microsoft Academic used to be the second-largest academic search engine after Google Scholar. Microsoft Academic provides a wealth of data for free, but Microsoft has announced that it will shut Microsoft Academic down in by 2022. 

#28. Scizzle

Designed to help researchers stay on top of the literature by setting up email alerts, based on key terms, for newspapers.

Unfortunately, academic search engines come and go. These are two that are no longer available.

Final Thoughts

There are many academic search engines that can help researchers and scholars find the information they need. This list provides a variety of options, starting with more familiar engines and moving on to less well-known ones. 

Keeping an open mind and exploring different sources is essential for conducting effective online research. With so much information at our fingertips, it’s important to make sure we’re using the best tools available to us.

Tell us in the comment below which academic search engine have you not heard of? Which database do you think we should add? What database do your professional societies use? What are the most useful academic websites for research in your opinion?


Check out our other articles on the Best Academic Tools Series for Research below.


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Author
Joannah W.
Joannah has been a science publisher with close to 20 years of experience. She wants to help students and researchers stay ahead of the trends and developments in the science community by making science more accessible to everyone.

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