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Finding Canadian Materials on Google Scholar (Sort Of)

We’ve discussed Google Scholar on SLAW before. Google Scholar allows you to search legal opinions and journals for free, and while the coverage is primarily American, there are a significant amount of Canadian materials available. Not everything in Google Scholar is available in full-text; in some cases only the citations are included.

Google Scholar supports most of Google Search’s advanced operators (e.g. “phrase search”, + and -). It also allows users to limit their searches by date with the caveat that “that some web sources don’t include publication dates, and a date-restricted search will not return articles for which Google Scholar was unable to determine a date of publication.”

If you are looking for court cases on Google Scholar, you can limit your search to a specific U.S. jurisdiction (federal or state) but there is no way of limiting your search to case law from jurisdictions outside the United States. Admittedly there is no real reason to use Google Scholar to locate Canadian case law for free as CanLII fills that role quite nicely. (As Simon Fodden has noted Google Scholar does not incorporate material from CanLII.)

Furthermore although you can limit your search results to just case law you cannot do the opposite and limit your search results to just legal journals.

Hein Online has allowed Google Scholar to index approximately 1,100 titles so that they are searchable using the Google Scholar interface. Although Hein Online is an American publisher, it includes Canadian journals. (A full list of the journals on Hein Online can be found here.) If you don’t have a Hein Online subscription, you may not be able to see the full text of these articles; however, for a number of articles there are links to free versions elsewhere on the internet. Given the scope of Hein Online, the inclusion of its materials improves the quality of the search results.

There is no easy way (yet) of limiting your Google Scholar search to just Canadian materials. Simply using site:ca to limit the results to those found on a Canadian site will mean that a number of relevant results may be missed, including those from Hein Online.

Another way of retrieving only Canadian articles is by using the journal name to limit the search results. For example, you could do this by going into the Advanced Search option and adding can OR canada OR canadian to the publication box. There are two problems with this method, the first one being that this search will return not just journal articles but also case law. The second issue is that the results will omit any Canadian articles published in journals that do not have “Canada” or “Canadian” in their name, as well as articles with citations that shorten Canadian to a “C” (e.g. CBLJ). If you’re searching for articles from within a specific subject area, it may be easier to limit your search to a specific journal or journals. You should make sure that you include all the various ways that that your journal might be cited. Currently Google does not allow you to truncate your search terms.

Using the intitle: operator to limit the search to having “Canada” or “Canadian” in the title (e.g. intitle:canada OR intitle:canadian) is not recommended as you will end up with a lot of case law where the name of one of the parties includes one of these words and you will end up excluding Canadian articles that do not include these words.

Although the bulk of legal materials on Google Scholar are American, there are enough Canadian resources on it to make Google Scholar a worthwhile tool for Canadian legal researchers.

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  1. I was quite amazed by the power (indeed the seeming omniscience) of Google Scholar just recently. The Courthouse Library in Vancouver subscribes to the print edition of one Canadian university’s legal journal, and we also have it through our HeinOnline subscription. Amazingly, when neither our print copy nor HeinOnline’s digital version of the 2010 volume was yet available, one quick search on Google Scholar revealed the full text of the requested article. We don’t even expect to receive the print copy until two months from now!