Review Update: Google Scholar
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Jeffrey Coghill, CAS-HSL, MLIS, MA 
Outreach Librarian and Director, Eastern AHEC (Area Health Education Center) Library Services 
East Carolina University  

This is an update of a review I wrote that was published in the September 2018 issue of Doody’s Collection Development Monthly. You can find the original review here.  

Product Overview 

Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com/) is a freely available electronic resource available via the internet anywhere in the world for no charge. The resource has been continuously updated since its release in 2004. “The Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewed online academic journals and books, conference papers, theses and dissertations, preprints, abstracts, technical reports, and other scholarly literature, including court opinions and patents” [1].  

Features & Functionality  

Google Scholar is not dependent on a thesaurus or controlled vocabulary for searching. The Google algorithms search all terms in a search string, discounting stop words (the, is, and). The downside is that thousands or millions of results are returned. Google Scholar serves as a wonderful adjunct to local academic library link resolvers. This service is especially handy if citations are partial and not fully displayed. I have been able to copy and paste an entire citation into the search box and got the results I had been looking for. Unfortunately, Google Scholar is resource agnostic so that both free articles and articles behind paywalls are retrieved. 

Overview of Pros and Cons 

  • Free resource via the internet 
  • Thousands to millions of citations
  • Zero downtime (if the internet works, so does Google Scholar) 
  • Good functionality with ability to save to “My Library” for personal use. Creating folders or tags for marking articles is excellent. 
  • Users with a Google/Gmail account can set their local library for direction to local electronic resources 

Searching Options 

  • Any time – good 
  • Since 2021 – good 
  • Since 2020 – good 
  • Since 2017 – good 
  • Custom range – good 
  • Sort by relevance – good 
  • Sort by date – unusable 
  • Include patents – good, especially when searching for patent information 
  • Include citations – good, especially when searching for citation information or other relevant articles 
  • Create alerts – good 

In the upper left corner of Google Scholar (under the “3-line stack” or “hamburger menu”) there is the ability to search for Articles, Case Law, or Profiles of other scholars who have worked on specific topics. Case Law is especially helpful when tackling tricky legal citations. The deftness to search for legal cases without expensive legal databases is helpful to novice and expert searchers alike. 

Settings–>Results per page: Ten (10) citations are the default setting for results per page but can be switched to 20 per page. More than 1000 per page would be useful for researchers. 

Settings–>Library Links: up to five libraries can be displayed including Open World Cat. I was able to set four academic libraries and World Cat. However, I was not able to set Library of Congress as a setting as a library. I was able to set my libraries as World Cat, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, NIH (National Institutes of Health) Library, and the National Institutes of Health Library. 

Google Scholar exports to bibliographic citation managers using BibTex, EndNote, RefMan, or RefWorks formats, which is good for researchers. 

My profile can save users’ self-authored works in journals only. It does not save book titles. This setting also shows when works are cited by year. 

Alerts can be created to search for articles that fall under a topic, but only allow up to 10 or 20 results to be displayed at a time. An unlimited number of alerts can be created. For this to work well for librarians, we need the option for more results. 

Breakthrough 

While I had initially been reluctant to rely fully on Google Scholar, I have become more reliant on this resource as the years have passed. It is another place where I can find citation information, even when that information is partial or incomplete. As time goes by, Google Scholar has become an integral part of searching repertoire. 

References 

[1] “Google Scholar – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Scholar

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