Google is fast and easy and great for getting up-to-the-minute details on current topics. But should you also be using Google to find sources for a writing assignment at university?
Google has a great deal of information -- some of it is good, some of it is bad. As a student who's new to your subject you'll have a hard time distinguishing between high-quality, low-quality or entirely false information.
You can definitely use Google to help you learn more about your topic. But when it comes to finding scholarly articles and books for your assignment, we recommend that you look elsewhere. With Google, you don't know what you're going to get.
Google Books is Google's project to digitize the world's books and make them available online. The books primarily come from two sources: publishers and academic libraries. You won't find the last fiction bestsellers in Google Books, but you will find a lot of books that are appropriate for your research on just about any topic.
Google uses four access levels for books: full view, limited preview, snippet view, and no preview.
Google Books works just like Google's regular web search, including the use of quotation marks for 'exact phrases' (=words immediately next to each other) ➊.
When Google finds a book with content that contains a match for your search terms, it will link to it in your search results. By clicking on the book title link, you're taken directly to the 'Preview this book' or 'Read this Book' page. This is where you can search the full text of a book and read selected passages (or, if you're lucky, the entire book). From the 'About this book' section ➋, you can read a summary of the book and browse the table of contents.
Google Books can be a useful resource because it allows you to search the full text of millions of scanned books -- something that's not possible in a regular library catalog. With Google Books you can easily determine whether a book contains the information you're looking for. If you find a useful book that Google Books doesn't offer in full view, check if the university library has a copy.