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Resources for Students in Online and Off-Campus Programs: Research: Articles, E-books, & More

BU Libraries Search (BULS) is your starting place.  

Find resources to support your studies:
  • Discover scholarly articles for your research.
  • Find e-Books available from the BU Libraries.
  • Browse journals in your discipline.
  • Stream films and audio.

Video Tutorial: BU Libraries Search Quick Start 

Hints and Tips:

screenshot demoing BULS Available Online limit

As a distance learner or off-campus student, one of the most useful ways to modify your search is to limit to those materials which are available online. Using the Availability / Available online facet allows you to do that.

Specialized Research Guides help direct you to the best resources available on a topic.

  • Course Guides are class-specific; librarians may create them by working with your professors.
  • Subject Guides may cover an entire discipline, a specific major, or a narrower topic that is frequently researched.
  • Your professors may link to Research Guides in your class page or syllabus, or you can browse through the whole collection.

List of Guides for Online Classes and Programs:

Why Use a Subject Database?

Search smarter! Subject databases index sources on a specific subject or discipline. For that specific subject, they may provide more comprehensive coverage than you will find elsewhere. Value-added features such as discipline-specific thesauri or controlled vocabularies allow you to do a more nuanced search than is possible in BULS or any other resource, even though those tools may also have coverage of some or all of the same content.

Which Ones Do I Use?

The BU Libraries provide you with access to hundreds of databases to help you find resources to support your studies. Your professor may suggest one, or our subject and course Research Guides will help you find the best databases for your area of study, but you can also go directly to a database by name or browse by subject from our A-Z list.

Video Tutorial: Quick Tips and Shortcuts for Database Searching

This video from Memoirs of a Modern Librarian covers many of the basic features you can use to make the most of searching in academic databases.

How do I find e-Books? 

BU Libraries have over 2 million e-Books, and add more all the time. They can be found using BULS.

Hints and Tips:

  • For more details on our e-Book collections and their capabilities, consult our e-Books Research Guide.
  • The libraries have e-Books from a number of different sources, each with its own platform or interface. Saving, downloading to your computer or ereader, and printing; as well as functions such as navigation and annotation, vary depending on the e-Books source. 
  • Search in BULS and limit using the Available Online facet. You can further limit your search results by Material Types to include both entire books and book chapters.
    screenshot showing available online, book, and book chapter filters for a BULS search

What is Google Scholar?
GIF of mouse selecting the menu icon and then the advanced search option

Google Scholar is a search engine for scholarly* content. It covers some of the same resources as the BU Library Search (BULS), but there are differences. Some of the differences are detailed in the pros and cons table, below. Google Scholar should be used in conjunction with BULS and subject-specific databases, and not as the only place you search. To improve your search results in Google Scholar, try using the search tips and the advance search feature.

Video Tutorial: Setting up Library Links in Google Scholar

The Library Links feature allows you to see a link to BU full text of an article from your Google Scholar results. 

Pros and Cons of Google Scholar

Pros Cons

Google Scholar defines "scholarly" content broadly. Results vary in quality.

Full Text:

  • Configure to link to BULS 
  • Follow the All Versions link below the result.
Many citations do not link to free full text; or link to pre-publications, other versions of the work, or the wrong content. Links may direct you to content behind a paywall. DO NOT PAY FOR ARTICLES. Even if BU doesn't already subscribe to it, we will get it for you through our Interlibrary Loan service.

Includes grey literature:

Poster sessions, working papers, conference proceedings, etc. that can be difficult to locate 

Unclear what it includes and excludes:

  • Often does not include all the articles from a journal or publisher
  • Results ranking (what displays first) is based on a proprietary algorithm. Even when you already know an author and topic, what you are looking for may not appear in the first several pages of results
  • The number of results reported for a search does not reflect the actual number of results you can access. Though Google Scholar may claim to have found "About 19,000 results" only about the first 1,000 are actually retrievable. It is unclear whether refining those results searches the entire claimed number of results, or just those 1,000
  • The same search may not always bring up the same results, and minor changes to your search may result in a big change in the quantity, display order, and content of results


  • saving marked results 
  • exporting to citation managers
  • links to cited and citing articles
Lacks of many of the results sorting and narrowing features found in BULS and subject-specific databases. Bibliographic metadata quality can be poor, resulting in misleading citation counts 


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Guides To Research