A Useful tool for academic research

From my discussions with fellow grad-students and students, I have noticed that Google Scholar is not so well known as it should be. Scholar is not so new, and is a wonderful tool for anyone looking for “serious” academic references for their work. Scholar scans academic databases in several languages; and then lists the results.

The “regular” Google Index indexes and ranks pages according to their “PageRank” (and basically, although the formula is much more complex, according to links popularity). Scholar ranks the results according to the academic equivalent of link-popularity (or backlinks), which is the “back citations” (or the number of citations of this source in other sources). Since it could be agreed that generally, in the academic world, if you are more widely cited, you are more important; this is very useful. Not only that, but you can browse through the articles that have cited your source, and might find further resources for your research.

Scholar is supposed to solve one painful problem when searching for serious information on the web: the huge quantities of rubbish, unsubstantiated information and plain lies. It doesn’t solve the problem. Not entirely. First of all, because one can also write academic rubbish. In addition, with the haste of widening the scope of Scholar, Google have inserted some sources that are more magazine commentary type than academic stuff. But one should always apply a critical analysis of the text one reads, right?

Scholar results also include some academic databases where an article could be found, or – in the case of books – a reference to the Google Print version of a book. But this is only the beginning. Its advanced features include things that are even neater.

  • Language preferences: one can choose articles/books only in certain languages (English, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese, right now)
  • Library Link: Any library can add itself to the Scholar database. If your library is part of the programme (mine, unfortunately, isn’t), you can see if the book/journal is available at the library.
  • You can import the bibliographic details to one of several footnoting softwares, like EndNote.

The former three could be managed using the “preferences” link next to the Scholar search option. The following are ‘Advanced’ options:

  • You can search articles by author, or by the journal.
  • You can limit the years of publication.
  • You can limit the discipline

Now, no more excuses for not writing my dissertation, right?

2 Responses to “A Useful tool for academic research”

  1. pafalafaga says:

    Ahhh…academic rubbish. Where would the world be without it?

    Google Scholar is indeed, terrific. But one thing worth noting is an aspect of Google Scholar that is also creeping into a lot of other search results…the inclusion of teaser results from subscription databases.

    A number of Google search tools can now access material from fee-based data sources. The search results page shows a relevant snippet or two from the source, but to get to the actual document, the searcher has to either subscribe to the database, or pay a one-time fee for accessing an article.

    This is a two-sided sword. On the one hand, it makes a lot more material available to the searcher, when a database like JSTOR shows up in the results of a Google Scholar search.

    On the other hand…if you can’t actually see the full results without paying a fee, it just seems to take away some of the magic of the internet. Sort of like the difference between Napster and iTunes, I suppose.

    Oh well…that’ life in the modern world.

    David Sarokin aka pafalafaga

  2. Web Owls » Blog Archive » Scholars-R-Us says:

    […] But a lot of scholarly resources aren’t pulled up in a simple search, even they they reside somewhere in the vast reaches of cyber-academia.  They are invisibel to Google and other search engines.  For these, you need some specialty resources like: Google Scholar, of course. Microsoft has a similar, though oddly named, tool at Windows Live Search Academic . Much more cleverly named is the University of Michigan’s OIAster,   which doubtless stands for something…it’s a good collection of scholarly materials that include video, audio, databases and images along with text.  […]