Is the coverage of Google Scholar enough to be used alone for systematic reviews

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2013 Jan 9;13:7. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-13-7.


Background: In searches for clinical trials and systematic reviews, it is said that Google Scholar (GS) should never be used in isolation, but in addition to PubMed, Cochrane, and other trusted sources of information. We therefore performed a study to assess the coverage of GS specifically for the studies included in systematic reviews and evaluate if GS was sensitive enough to be used alone for systematic reviews.

Methods: All the original studies included in 29 systematic reviews published in the Cochrane Database Syst Rev or in the JAMA in 2009 were gathered in a gold standard database. GS was searched for all these studies one by one to assess the percentage of studies which could have been identified by searching only GS.

Results: All the 738 original studies included in the gold standard database were retrieved in GS (100%).

Conclusion: The coverage of GS for the studies included in the systematic reviews is 100%. If the authors of the 29 systematic reviews had used only GS, no reference would have been missed. With some improvement in the research options, to increase its precision, GS could become the leading bibliographic database in medicine and could be used alone for systematic reviews.

MeSH terms

  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet*
  • PubMed