Friday, May 06, 2016

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine and a gateway to scholarly materials on the web.

When using Google Scholar, one has the ability to select date ranges for articles and books. Citations and article content can be saved to a Google Scholar account (this is similar to how YouTube works). Alerts can be set to send updates on subjects or authors.

Google Scholar also contains a set of U.S. patents that can easily searched.

Google Scholar returns results that point to several sites that have full-text copies of articles including the PLoS (Public Library of Science), PNAS ( Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), NIH (National Institute of Health), Nature, Wiley, Cell Report, other open access journals, ResearchGate, and academic institutions.

ResearchGate is a site that anyone with a ".edu" email can sign up for and access full-text, peer-reviewed articles directly from authors of articles. It is a social networking site for researchers, but I have received many papers directly from scientists happy to share their research. Researchers have a vested interest in making their articles easily available because having their papers cited by other researchers boosts their impact, something which is used in getting tenure or jobs.

It is possible for academic libraries to link their collection to Google Scholar so that a student will see full text articles that are available through their institution. A student who is on campus or logged into their institution's databases can simply click on a link and bring up the article.

The U.S. government and many other governments have guiding principles that research conducted with government funds should be freely available to the public. One way for researchers to do this is to publish in Open Access journals.

The California Digital Library (CDL) is operated by the University of California and is a repository of research published by UC institutions. One of their goals is to make UC research widely available. Since much of the research conducted by UC uses government funds, potentially large elements will become Open Access.

The Google Scholar page suffers from several deficiencies such as not having controlled vocabularies. Quality and coverage is considered to not be as good as commercial databases. However Google Scholar has made good progress since it was first available in 2004. Its usefulness may improve if freely available Open Access journals continue to grow more significant.

Review by John Stanton, SWC Librarian

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