Google Scholar and You

If you are a student at Arkansas Tech University, you may have experimented with Google Scholar.  Maybe you heard about it from your friends or tried it once at a party.  Maybe you saw results for “scholarly articles” within a regular Google result and decided to click on it, just to see what it was like.

screen shot of google scholar results

This gateway drug of academic resources can appear like harmless fun—a way to quickly find scholarly journal articles in the same way you can find chicken tikka masala recipes and advice for disobedient cats.  But you may not be aware of the pro’s and con’s of this addictive source of scholarly research.  Let the Ross Pendergraft library help you get your facts straight about Google Scholar.

skillet full of academic research journals

PRO’S

  1. Size: The exact number and sources for Google Scholar indexing is unknown, but one study concluded that it indexes over 160 million documents 1.  This makes it one of the largest academic databases around.  Another study estimated that Google Scholar covers about 87% of all scholarly documents accessible on the web in English 2.  For most academic resource searching, Google Scholar can make a quick, one-stop research trip.
  2. Ease of Use: If you are unsure where to go to find scholarly articles, then Google Scholar makes a lot of sense. It covers multiple disciplines such as science, literature, nursing, behavioral sciences, and more. Finding Google Scholar is as simple as Googling it.  Searching is free and includes no login restrictions.   One search box makes the interface simple to use.  Advanced search, if needed, is also simple.  Just click on the arrow in the search box, and another window allows you to search by author, words in the title, and date-ranges.
  3. another view of advanced google scholar advanced google scholarConnects to ATU Library: Google Scholar enables you to select a ‘home’ library to connect resources you find in Google Scholar with full-text access through the Ross Pendergraft Library. In Google Scholar, open Settings, and click on Library Links. In the search box, type in “ATU” or “Ross Pendergraft Library” or “Tech”.  Click the checkbox and save:

Screenshot showing library links in the google Scholar settings

If the articles within your search results are available in full-text at the Ross Pendergraft Library, you will see a link on the right for “Find it At Tech”.

screenshot showing how to connect google scholar to tech resources

CON’S

  1. No “Peer-Reviewed” Button: Most of the databases you find through the library (such as Find It, Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, ERIC, etc.) include the ability to narrow results by peer-reviewed articles.  This is important to help you drill down to original research that meets the highest of academic standards.  While much of Google Scholar contains peer reviewed articles, a lot of it can be conference proceedings, unpublished scholarly articles, master’s theses, legal summaries, blog posts, and book citations.  So how do you separate the peer-reviewed articles from non-peer-reviewed articles?  There’s no really easy way, unless you are familiar with the publications.  You can also copy and paste the article title in our Find It database, then filter by the Peer-Review buttons there.  But if you have to go through all that, why not just start from Find It in the first place?
  2. screenshot of "peer-review' selection in Find ItNot Everything You Find is Free: While Google Scholar can index a lot of content, much of it is only available via the publisher for purchase. The title links (left-side) will lead you to the publisher website while the links on the right, if available, will lead you to the free PDF available at open-access sites like Research Gate or through the library’s site through “Find it at Tech”.  If you click on the title-level links, the publisher’s website will offer a PDF download for a price, probably between $30-$35.  NEVER PAY!  If you are a student at Arkansas Tech and the article is not available for immediate download in our Find It database, use the Interlibrary Loan service to quickly obtain the article from another library.  No purchase necessary.
  3. Limited Advanced Searching and Inaccuracy: Sure, you can search by words in author and words in the title, but you cannot search or limit results by more sophisticated means like subject searching.  You also can’t limit results to available full-text. The databases in the library, however, offer a variety of tools to help narrow down or make your searches more efficient and precise.  Library databases have indexing done by professional human beings who can assign controlled subject terms and provide quality control.  Google Scholar uses web crawlers to extract data from the publisher websites, and sometimes this data is either incorrect, attributed to the wrong author, or completely false.

Ultimately, Google Scholar can be useful as a source of scholarly information, but it does have its drawbacks.  The resources available at the library website like Find It can be your best bet for accessing full-text, peer-reviewed resources available to you as a tuition-paying student.

Craving more information about Google Scholar and scholarly articles?  Contact your research dealers and knowledge pushers at askalibrarian@atu.edu.  Ask your librarian if Google Scholar is right for you.

 

1Orduña-Malea, E.; Ayllón, J.M.; Martín-Martín, A.; Delgado López-Cózar, E. (2014). About the size of Google Scholar: Playing the numbers. EC3 Working Papers, 18(23). Retrieved from: https://arxiv.org/abs/1407.6239

2Khabsa, M., Giles, C.L. (2014). The number of scholarly documents on the public web. PLOS ONE, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093949

 

 

 

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