Google Scholar: Researching Faster, Not Harder

Posted on April 25, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Tim Cushman

The best part of my library experience during grad school was the fact that I never had to actually go to the library to get the journal articles I needed for research. The digitized collection, readily available online with student login, was a tremendous time saver and an efficient means of staying current on educational research. 

Upon the completion of my degree, I had to resign myself to the lack of accessibility to the wealth of digital journals I had enjoyed during my studies.   My spirits were lifted when I recently stumbled across Google Scholar (It was launched in 2004.  I am just slow).  Google Scholar is a solid research tool for students and teacher-leaders alike.  It is not a rival to what most universities are able to offer, but good nonetheless.  

The keyword search mechanism is intuitive since it is, after all, Google’s familiar platform.  One key distinction of Scholar searching is the citation ranking.  This ranking system helps steer you to the articles you need instead of spending hours “Google wandering.” 

Google Scholar is different from a general Google search because Scholar searches several “invisible” academic indexes.  I also like the fact that Google Scholar includes a feature that allows users to view what other publications cited the article in their research. 

Google Scholar does have its limitations.  Any seasoned search-engine user knows that Google’s strength is breadth over depth when it comes to website indexing.  The same is true of Google Scholar.  Any commercial research database will always be more effective then Google Scholar in returning the most appropriate results.

Users should be aware that Google Scholar returns both free and for-purchase articles.  Despite the limitations, Google Scholar is a serviceable tool for starting the research process.

What other free research tools have you found?


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One Response to “Google Scholar: Researching Faster, Not Harder”

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As I school librarian I support my students desire for information to be brought to them electronically. After-all, I will sit at my desk and use an online dictionary for a definition, or worse, use Word to type a word out to see if it is spelled correctly. I would be a hypocrite if I chastised students for first choosing online resources. I now find myself bothered with teachers who tell students they must have a “print” resource when I know my budget year to year makes it less likeley I’ll have a print resource to meet the need. (I have actually encouraged students to go to the bookstore, take their notecards, browse until they find one, dse it, write out their necessary info, and then return it to the shelf.) Having access to the Internet, databases, and yes, especially a resource like Google Scholar is a dream come true. It allows me as a librarian to focus more on teaching the essential question and evaluation the information found rather than locating resources, which is low in bloom’s taxonomy. I’m also allowed to introduce students to aggregators, so their research is now brought to them, and line them up with possible experts (more like first hand info or primary sources) for their research b/c even if my school doesn’t allow it, at home these kids are very savvy with chat, IM, and other communication tools. Skype is the next natural step. I consider myself a 21st Century librarian, and my desire is to help all the learners in my environment use 21st century tools, and that includes (oh I hate this word) teachers, students, and parents. Far too many teachers think their learning is done. (My goal is to make them realize they are far from it.) Great article Tim.

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