Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Did You Know...We Have Our Own Google Scholar!

Although your average reference librarian will usually suggest that using one or more of our (expensive) fulltext-rich, enhanced scholarly databases is the best way to tackle most academic research, we also recognize that people love to just Google their topics.  The massive, scatter-shot nature of Google always ensures that you will get some results, no matter what you plug into the search box.  And if those results are not the best possible research materials, many students (and some faculty) don't much care.

Google is smart enough to know that to be all things to all people, they needed to help academics winnow out more scholarly materials when they search.  Hence, Google Scholar.  The company says that "Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research."  And although they are not exactly transparent about what goes in and what doesn't, they do have information about inclusion and metrics at this page.

One of the (several) frustrations about Google Scholar is, however, that much of the scholarly literature they index is in publisher databases that charge a lot of money.  If a database doesn't know who you are or how you are academically-affiliated, they will likely offer to provide easy access to a wide variety of peer-reviewed journal articles if you are willing to provide credit card information and pay between $15 and $75 dollars to view and download them.  But, remember those expensive databases I mentioned in the first paragraph? We own or subscribe to a myriad of them.  And those databases might well provide "free" access to those same articles as long as you are a current student or faculty of CAS/SBS!  But YOU MUST GO THROUGH OUR VERSION OF GOOGLE SCHOLAR.

As you can see from the URL in this screenshot,  the link to Google Scholar that you find on our homepage or in our LibGuides actually runs through our proxy server, allowing you to be authenticated and recognized as a Suffolk University researcher, no matter where you are, 24/7.

So when you do a search and get results, a great many of the articles that might come from sources like JSTOR, Wiley Online Library, Sage Journals Online and other databases, will open for you (after you authenticate) when you click on the title.

Keep an eye out for the 360Link that you sometimes see to the right.  This will check our eJournal Locator across all databases. This clickable access can make research much easier.  But be aware of two things.  First, not all materials cited in Google Scholar come from scholarly journal databases.   And, secondly, like all libraries, we do not own all items or all databases.  So, our version of Google Scholar can be a great help, it is not the magic bullet of universal literature access.  (Alas, universal open access is just a dream we dreamed.)

Also, consider using the Advanced Search Option in Google Scholar--

a hard-to-spot popup box. Here, you can indicate an author you want, look for an exact phrase (even just in the title of the article) or specify a date range.  This allows for (slightly) more focused searching.

But there are other things that Google Scholar can be useful for besides providing a wide-ranging index with links.  Did you know that many people use it to track cited references of important articles?  For an explanation of that, see this LibGuide page.  And related to this, some software and services actually use Google Scholar to do the kind of "citation analysis" we usually associate with the "impact factor."  Publish or Perish is an example.

And did you know that you can export Google Scholar references to RefWorks?  It's one of the "Settings."

 And for more on RefWorks, see this guide.

So, yes, Google Scholar can be a useful tool because it searches across so many materials.  But it is essential that you critically evaluate the items you find in it--especially those NOT from a peer-reviewed journal.  There are some sources in Google Scholar (like other student term papers) that your professor will probably not want to see on your bibliography.

Bottom line, if you are planning on using Google Scholar, be cautious and critical.  And if you are a member of the Suffolk community, be sure to use our version to reduce dead-end (or costly) frustration!

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