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Research 101

How Google searches and what it CAN'T see

How does Google search?

Google sends out "spiders" (also called bots or web crawlers) that jump from webpage to webpage following hyperlinks on each page. These spiders index the words on each page in a database. The basic idea is that when you do a Google search, you are searching their database to find web pages that seem relevant based on their words.

However, Google also ranks pages based on other factors--for more on the process, see this video -- but please take the Google representative's claim of neutrality in determining the quality of websites with a grain of salt, as many people have critiqued Google's process for ranking pages, and a whole industry called "search engine optimization" has developed to show how businesses can alter their websites to manipulate their Google rankings.

Note that Google will also use what it knows about you and/or the computer you're using to tailor your results - try this with this search (you won't get the same thing as someone searching in Dallas, Texas!):

google city council

What does Google NOT search?

From some estimates, Google has access to less than 10% of online material; other estimates say that the figure is even smaller than that. Some web pages that the spiders cannot find and index include:

  • Subscription databases
  • Any pages that require a password or login
  • Websites that have been made private/not crawlable by Google spiders, such as networks available within a particular company
  • Web pages that are not linked to other web pages
  • Web-based mail servers

This is why online library materials - many of which require subscriptions (which you help to pay for with your tuition) and require a login to view (which is why you need to activate your ID each semester to verify that you're a current student in order to have access from off-campus) are not going to turn up in Google searches.

Some things (for example, a New York Times article) might be available both through a Google search and through a OneSearch search, but many documents cannot be found by Google.

Google Scholar

Google, as you know, searches websites that are available on the open web, by following links (see "How Google Searches" for more info).

Google Scholar searches for scholarly publications. 

Exclamation Point Most of these can only be read if you belong to an institution that subscribes to the journal, so to get access you need to let Google Scholar know that you are a Hostos student who is permitted to download an article from a journal we subscribe to. Here's how:



(A) If you are on-campus and using a Hostos computer: Google Scholar should recognize that the computer belongs to Hostos, and you should not need to do anything extra to gain access.

(B) If you are off-campus on a computer that is not your own:

(C) If you are off-campus using your own computer:

1. You can do the same thing as (B) above - or if you plan to be using it often, you can change your settings in Google Scholar so you don't have to do the above every time.

2. To change your settings, go to  and click on the three bars on the top left.

Google Scholar Homepage with Google Scholar Logo and Search Bar. Click on 3 Bars Top Left.

3. Click on "Settings".

Google Scholar Settings Option on Bottom Left

3. Click on "Library Links".

Google Scholar Settings. Library Links is the second option.

4. Search for Hostos by typing in the box and hitting the search button. Make sure to check the box and then hit save.

Search for Hostos

Now, after you do a search, look for the clickable links on the right-hand side to get to articles.

  • Some articles may be posted on institutional repositories, like our own CUNY Academic Works, or a similar site where scholars choose to post their articles so anyone can read them for free. 
  • Articles that say "at Hostos" you have access to because you are a Hostos student.

Happy researching!

Google Scholar Links


What excellent researchers do

Expert researchers investigate every source they use, and think about each source critically.

You'll have to gather information and use your judgment to decide whether or not you'll trust a website. Some professors will not accept any non-library website for their research assignments, while others will - but those who will accept websites will probably want you to be ready to explain why you believe the websites you've used are credible (believable, trustworthy).

Questions to ask about EVERY website you find:

  • WHO wrote this? (It may be one person, or a group)
  • What QUALIFIES the author(s) to write about this subject? Even if they have experience or advanced degrees, are those degrees and that experience relevant to the thing they are writing about?
  • WHERE did they get their information?
    • For example, their information might be from: original scientific research, and/or interviews of experts (who are those experts, and what are their qualifications?, and/or published books and reports, and/or personal experience, and/or social media, and/or somewhere else.
  • They may not tell you directly where the information is from - you may have to use your critical reading skills to figure it out.
  • What is their POINT OF VIEW?  There is more than one valid point of view on any complicated subject. What do they believe is important? 
  • WHY are they telling us this? As you know, writing takes time and effort! No one builds a website without having a reason.
  • What do other people say about this person or group? (Google them!)
    • If you find people who praise and trust them, who are those people, and what do you think of them?
    • If you find people who dislike and distrust them, who are those people, and what do you think of them?
  • Why might you tend to trust this?        <------------------>          Why might you tend to doubt this? Be able to explain your reasons.

Notice that using Google is not a shortcut - to do it right, you have to do MORE work, to vet and assess each source to see if you should even take it seriously.

There is a lot of good information available on the open web, but every website must be critically considered, and especially if you're new to a subject, you'll have to take the time to INVESTIGATE the authors behind each site to weigh its trustworthiness.

I found an article on the internet and it says I need to pay!

If you’re asked online to pay for an article, DON’T! Hostos Library can get you the article for free, either through our own access or through Interlibrary Loan.

To check whether Hostos Library has access to the article, or whether you will need to request that article through Interlibrary Loan, follow these steps. 

1. Search Google Scholar.

If you are on campus, come through the Library Database Page, or if you are using your own computer and have added Hostos Library to your Google Scholar Library Links, look for the link to Hostos to the right of the article title. 

Google Scholar Results List

2. Search in the E-Journals List for the publication in which the article appeared.

If you don't find the article in Google Scholar, but you know the journal title, search for the publication in the library e-journal finder (Library Home Page > Find Library Materials > E-Journal Finder). If you find the publication, you can then search within it for the article.

3. If we do not have the article in online, request it through Interlibrary Loan.

Do not pay for individual articles - you are already paying for access with your Hostos tuition. 

Questions? Ask a Librarian!