Google Scholar : Google for research

Or super search tips for researchers and students how to use Google Scholar more efficiently. The embedded Slideshare presentation and this blog post will be kept up to date and in sync. And which is more interesting, all inks or examples in this Slidehare presentation are clickable, so you can see what I mean.

The following scholarly super search tips are an explanation for the embedded slideshare presentation.

You can use, and should use, the usual Google shortcuts. The ones listed in this slide are the most important ones. Search for ["phrase searching"] to keep the words together. Search for specific file types with the ext: (or filetype:) operator. Limit searches to specific parts of the www with the site: operator. Search for the specific words in the title with the allintitle: (or intitle:) operator. Use the OR operator to include synonyms of certain search terms. Exclude specific terms with the sign. And last, but not least combine all these operators. A few more tips like these can be found in the post “Google better with Google

An important Google operator that you can’t use in Google Scholar is the numerical range operator (numrange). The three … (dots) connecting two figures. In Google Scholar you even get a warning that the numrange operator isn’t working when you make use of it. Instead of the numrange operator the facet for publication years is extremely important in Google Scholar.

But before you’re using Google Scholar on a regular basis, turn to the search engine settings. There are three tabs that need a little tuning to optimize Google Scholar for you purposes. In the first tab you should selected the twenty search results per page, and that they open in a new tab/window. And select your preferred bibliography (reference) manager here. In case you use Mendeley, you get the best results when selecting Reference Manager as preferred bibliography manager. In the second tab you can select the language of the interface as well as the search results. It is not recommended to select search results in a single language only. In the last tab you can select the Library links that should be shown. When you are on campus, this is normally selected automatically, but especially when you’re off campus it is recommended to select the appropriate library access that you have to connect to more content directly.

The Google advanced search options are currently hidden behind the small triangle in the search box. You only need that for a few a few type of searches.

At the beginning you might like to use the advanced search form to search for authors. But soon you learn that a search for an author actually translate into the author: operator, eg [author:"KE Giller"] in the Google Scholar search box. If you want to search for the oeuvre of two authors the Advaced search form already fails, you have to do that trough the normal search box [author:"R Leemans" OR author:"KE Giller"]. The second useful option in the advanced search form is the possibility to search for articles in a certain journal. This option doesn’t translate back into a neat operator in standard search box. But in the url you can see what actually happens and you can see that it translates in as_publication= in the url http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_publication=%22agricultural%20systems%22. The years option in the advanced search form can be used here, but also after an initial search through the facets. That is what I normally prefer.

The ranking of the search results is heavily influenced by the citations to the articles found. The consequence of this influence of citations on the ranking of the results is that most often older material is at the top of the results page. It is therefore of utmost importance to use the year range option in the advanced search screen or the year range option in facets to select more recent results rather than heavily cited older material found at the top of the results page. When searching for recent results the standard ranking in Google Scholar is counterproductive and you have to make use of the year ranges.

Google Scholar searches for less word variants than the big Google does. There is no verbatim search needed as in the big Google, but “phrase” quotes around a single word still works to search specifically for a single word. Another interesting gem is that the tilde operator still functions in Google Scholar to search for a keyword and its synonyms (hattip @wichor). Something I come across quite a lot amongst experienced search is the use of parentheses, but unfortunately these don’t work in Google Scholar (or the big Google).

Looking into more detail to the search results the snippet of the search results is surrounded by many options. In the first place a clear indication of Open Access versions is indicated in the last column of search engine results page. With the save option you can add the result to the Google Scholar library (not connected to the Google Books Library). Under the Cite option you find three different options to which the reference can be formatted, APA, MLA or Chicago. In combination with the versions option, you can come to a complete reference for to use in your reference list. The import option lets you export the reference to your bibliography management software, such as EndNote, Refworks etc. It only allows you to do it one at the time. The versions tab is useful to locate other full text versions (eg. better scanning quality). In combination with the cite option you can also get properly formatted references. The last options, related articles and Cited by allows you to further search for information based on a useful search. The exact algorithm behind the related search option has not been published or studied and reported widely in the literature.

In Google Scholar it is really easy to initiate search alerts. You only have to be aware of the fact that for a standard search in Google Scholar you are allowed to use 256 characters for a search query, but for an alert the limitation is 100 characters (Barely sufficient for a proper search query). On top of the search alerts, you can receive updates based on your articles in your my citations profile.

On the quality of Google Scholar as a comprehensive search engine for researchers the last word has not been spoken yet. In terms of coverage it is probably larger than any other academic database or search engine. However still not all scholarly sources, such as OA repositories are fully indexed. The big Google index still finds OA resources not indexed in Google Scholar. For systematic reviews Google Scholar is a good addition to the range of databases to search. Metadata quality is still something that needs improvement, as well as the disambiguation of articles and authors. The version function sometimes helps with finding the proper metadata for a reference. The announced coupling to Web of Science should really a big plus in this area.

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