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Google Scholar Beta Logo

 

In November of 2004, Google launched a beta version of Google Scholar, a search tool that indexes items Google considers "scholarly" including articles, books, preprints, abstracts, conference proceedings, and technical reports.

To help you use this internet search tool effectively, here is an assessment of its strenghs and weaknesses, as well as some recommendations from McQuade Librarians.

Strengths | Weaknesses |Using Google Scholar |

McQuade Librarians Recommend...


STRENGTHS

Fast and easy to use
This tool can lead to hundreds of relevant "scholarly" articles in seconds. It has a search interface similar to Google -- it's clean and simple to use.

Provides a "cited by" feature
Google Scholar includes a list of references under each source. Next to each paper listed is a "Cited by" link. Clicking on this link shows Google's citation analysis --all the pages pointing to the original one listed are displayed.

Provides library links
Book results often have a link showing which libraries own a particular title. A book record usually contains a brief citation and lists libraries closest to your location. Links to libraries' catalogs and home pages are also provided. If an article is available online, the "Find it @ McQuade" link leads you directly to it for free.

Find open access journals
See full text of articles from open access journals and pre-print repositories that may not be in library databases
[To learn more about open access, visit Cornell University's Open Access overview page]

Find science & technology articles
Currently Google Scholar is strongest in scientific, technical and medical disciplines thanks to partners such as PubMed, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts,and the Association for Computing Machinery. New materials in the social sciences and humanities are being added. You'll also find article citations from databases such as Project Muse and Ingenta.

It's in beta
Google Scholar is a work in progress. New features and adjustments should lead to improvements over time.


WEAKNESSES

Is everything really "scholarly"?
NO and Google has yet to reveal what criteria they are using to select "scholarly" material.
As always, it is important to review and assess each source for its authority and quality for your research (see McQuade library's "Criteria for Assessing Sources").

Hey -- I have to pay?!
Google Scholar often links to papers and articles on commercial publisher websites. These sites will ask you to buy a subscription or pay for an article. DO NOT pay for articles. Use the "Find it @ McQuade" links to find a copy of the item. The options listed on the "Find it @ McQuade" menu will help you obtain the item -- either through a subsription, in print, or through interlibrary loan.

No full text?
Google Scholar is NOT a full text database. Most records in Google Scholar are journal article citations, not articles in their entirety. Articles indexed in Google Scholar may be accessible through Academic Search Premier, Lexis Nexis Academic or another quality McQuade library database. Select "Find it @ McQuade" to see if we have full text access.

My results are all over the place. Is there a way to sort results?

Keep in mind that a regular search displays highly relevant citations at the top of the list (just like in Google), not the most current materials. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to sort, import, or email results like in McQuade databases. Use the "Advanced Scholar Search" option to limit by date range and take advantage of other advanced searching features.

Sometimes I'm not sure what I'm looking at.

Your results can contain a hodgepodge of sources (including citations, cited references, and books). Also duplicate and fragmentary entries may appear, as well as different editions of works, such as preprints, which may vary from the version published in a journal. Ask a librarian for help if you're confused.

It's in beta.
As noted above, enhancements are in the works. A feature could be here today, gone tomorrow.


McQuade Librarians Recommend...

Start with a comprehensive, subject specific library database

Most of the time you will need to go to a library database to actually obtain the full text of the article anyway -- why not save time & start there?

Also, Google Scholar lacks certain sophisticated searching features you'll find in McQuade library databases. For example in PsycINFO you can limit by population group or in MEDLINE you can limit by age.


Remember, no single source (not even Google) is the answer!
Google Scholar gives you a sampling of research performed in a certain area, but is certainly not adequate, by itself, for college-level research.. As Mick O'Leary writes, "If your research is serious, Google Scholar should be your last option -- if you decide to use it at all" (see his article below). If you do choose to use Google Scholar, use it to supplement your academic research.

Explore Google Scholar on your own
Read all about it in the "About GoogleScholar" area.
Let us know what you think!


Using Google Scholar

How can I see Find It @ McQuade links in Google Scholar?

If you are coming to Google Scholar from within the Merrimack College network (anywhere on campus, or if you have already signed in through McQuade's proxy server), these links will automatically show up next to Google Scholar search results.

If you are not coming from within Merrimack's network, configure your Google Scholar Preferences to display Find It @ McQuade links:

1) Go to Google Scholar

2) Click on the Scholar Preferences link

3) In the search box for Institutional Access, search for "Merrimack College." Click "Save Preferences.

Perform a search in Google Scholar and "Find It @ McQuade" links will show up in your search results. Click on one of these links and you will see options for accessing the item you are looking for.



Interested in learning more about Google Scholar?

Google Scholar: What's in it For You?
by Mick O'Leary (Information Today, Jul/Aug 2005)

Google in the Academic Library
by Carol Tenopir (Library Journal, February 1, 2005)

Google Scholar Focuses on Research-Quality Content
by Barbara Quint (Information Today, November 22, 2004)