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Google Scholar - Commentary by Jay Bhatt

:: Jay Bhatt, writing on ELDNET-L, offers the following detailed analysis of Google Scholar. His comments are posted here with his permission, and are well worth the read:

There are (at least eight) areas that the present version of Google Scholar does not cover:
  1. It does not index online electronic books and handbooks such as those from ENGnetBASE, NEUROSCIENCEnetBASE, ENVIROnetBASE, INFOSECURITYnetBASE, MATERIALSnetBASE, and Knovel, etc. It becomes even more important to educate our students especially those working on Freshman and Senior Design Projects, to use electronic books and the books available in print when they need to develop sufficient background in their project areas before using Google Scholar. We want them not to carried away by Google Scholar so much that they ignore other important resources. Especially for design projects, scholarly interature is just a component of their research; not the only component.
  2. Conference papers indexed in Ei Village (Engineering Village) appear to be not yet available in Google Scholar. I did a search for 'Biomaterials', limiting to only conference articles in Engineering Village2. I found 507 articles in Engineering Village. I tried a few in Google Scholar but could not find any.
  3. We may not be able to download citations to Refworks to create your bibliography. Students will need to add them manually if they want to add them in Refworks. This will be time consuming.
  4. Advanced features such as searching within just Abstract rather than Full Text may not be available. Limiting search using advanced features avilable tends to increase relevancy of articles.
  5. Google Scholar does not provide what is being covered, what journals are indexed, what other databases are covered, so just relying on Google Scholar may not be helpful.
  6. Searching online codes (MAD CAD) is not available in Google Scholar. MAD CAD is very heavily used by our Senior Design students. "Subscription based MAD-CAD contains the building codes and knowledge based solutions and guidelines to meet the codes. MAD-CAD provides access to a comprehensive cross-referenced collection of building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire, maintenance codes from BOCA, SBCCI, ICBO, ICC, and NFPA; and state and local codes. This comprehensive set of codes in conjunction with the search engine and organizational tools provide an intelligent and efficient system for architectural, engineering and educational solutions.".
  7. Computer Science/IST - Books24x7, Safari, Lecture Notes in Computer Science - are important not yet available in Google Scholar. As the name implies ('Scholar'), they will not be available in future, too.
  8. One can not browse among different volumes/issues of a particular journal.

No doubt Google Scholar appears to be a great product, but we need to consider these limitations and promote them during our classes so that students will try to use other resources and simply not carried away by Google Scholar. I do like Google Scholar but I wanted to bring these issues. Lastly, there is a human component that Google Scholar can not provide.

Recently, I had our meeting with Freshman engineering faculty members to discuss planning for our Freshman engineering library sessions during the winter term.. I am including some important points that we discussed from the instructional perspectives. They liked our ideas of the multidisciplinary subject headings to address searching for biomedical engineering related information in several databases. Based on our discussion during the meeting, we are going to develop a one page hand out on examples of citations from variety of sources (one from handbook, one from a library book found using the catalog (print), one from encyclopdedia, one from website, one from journal article, and one from conference proceedings). This page will be used as a reference for students as they develop their bibliography.

Discussion on RefWorks was extremely well received. In fact, they all loved it. One faculty member suggested that we point out during the class that last year some students received poor grades because they did not co-ordinate well with their team members. Collaborating using Refworks in building a 'Group Bibliography' with each member of the team contributing, will be one way to improve co-ordination and co-operation among others. This suggestion was applauded by all faculty members present including us.

They are going to ask their students to follow the sample reference page and write their bibliography in that style. Either APA or MLA style will be used but students can use IEEE/ASCE style in Refworks. No decision has been made as yet if they are going to require students to use one style.

Interestingly, they all knew about Google Scholar; we argued and tried to convince them that it is NOT the only tool and that students need to look at other resources, ebooks, handbooks, library books, and conference papers for a complete search. They all agreed wholeheartedly.

Importance of building codes and specific material properties also came up (Google Scholar will not find them). They all agreed that we spend a few minutes in our talk to highlight our library resources, and in what situations Google Scholar is good, when it can be used, and when library subscribed other resources should be used. We will add one slide in our Powerpoint to address them. Importance of library consultations by students with librarians was again stressed by many faculty members. Two instructors are using webCT; we will plan to link our tutorial in those two faculty member's sections. This will be app. 8 sections out of the 27 sections.

Any other thoughts and ideas always welcome.

Jay Bhatt
Information Services Librarian (Engineering)
Hagerty Library, Drexel University
TEL 215-895-1873
FAX 215-895-2070
EMAIL: bhattjj AT drexel.edu


I think it's a little soon to rule out anything for Google Scholar as it just came out. Like all software, it is improved upon after initial release. Many of the points raised by Jay seem to be irrelevant to me. For example, I don't mind typing in the citation for a source if it only took milliseconds to find it. I would also expect that Google would not provide access to commercial products such as books24x7 and other expensive journal databases. Moreover, I believe that these arguments stem from the notion that students should consult a vast number of resources over using publicly available online websites such as Google. Often times I'm able to find what I'm looking for with a Citeseer or Google search, where networking is my primary area of research. While I understand this was written primarily to discourage students from just using Google, I think Google Scholar is a very big step in the right direction. Google Scholar utilizes the best search engine, promotes works that are publicly available, and best of all its free.

I agree that the first part of the statement "Google Scholar utilizes the best search engine, promotes works that are publicly available" but do not agree "and best of all its free". Yes, it does provide citations of articles and abstracts but to access the full text articles one needs to have either individual subscription or access through their library's subscription.

Many of our students had misconceptions that everything was free since from campus they were able to see full content of journal articles. Students who tried to access articles from home, found in Google Scholar were asked to pay for the articles. If they had tried to access articles using Library's system (using proxy), they would have been able to access full articles.

We posted the following information our site:
"Full text? Some; Many articles will not offer free fulltext. If you are prompted to pay for an article when attempting to access fulltext, please search for the Journal on Drexel's library website. DREXEL STUDENTS AND STAFF DO NOT HAVE TO PAY EXTRA FOR ANY ARTICLES OR BOOKS AVAILABLE THROUGH GOOGLE SCHOLAR."


As I said before, Google Scholar is an excellent product but I am concerned that faculty and students are going to be carried away by it. Especially Undergraduate students working on their design projects, need not only research information but also other information such as material and chemical properties, market data, market share of their proposed design currently existing, competition, for Chemical engineering students they need information on the production/processes of their chosen chemicals, and so on. I am not sure how much of information from databases such as Expanded Academic, Proquest, Wilson Online Full text, other online encyclopedias such as wiley encyclopedia of electrical and electronics engineering, Ullmann's encyclopedia of industrial Chemistry, etc. is available in Google Scholar. Since in many umiversities, their primary mission is Undergraduate Education, I hope faculty members help librarians to pass this message to their students.

Depending on the type of information need our users should make their choice of a resource.


I agree with Jay's general points but want to clarify that the statement that:


is misleading because it is unlikely that the drexel library licenses full-text access to all the articles that might come up on Scholar. ILL is certainly an option for all of them, but it is often not a viable option for our users because of the time lag.

Scholar will undoubtably be made to work with openURL resolvers which can solve this problem if we work it in with our proxy servers (see http://stlq.info/archives/001694.html
for a primitive example.

I believe that we as librarians need to focus on:

1) The long term problems which scholar will be unlikelty to be able to solve (e.g. quality/peer review) and

2) better branding the material we license so users know when its a resource that is being paid for by their libraries

Our library is holding a brown bag discussion of scholar where we will look at Scholar's plusses and minuses, and then dividing them into short term and longterm points. I highly recommend that all libraries entertain these kinds of discussions.

Scholar is here to stay and is ALREADY heavily used by our users. We've got to work with it rather than against it.

Jason Price
Life Sciences Librarian
Claremont Colleges

Jason's observation is correct. Those articles that are not available because Drexel do not subscribe to those journals where those articles are published, will need to be requested through ILL.
Recently, we created a new handout addressing this point and is now being distributed to our faculty and students.

I agree that "We've got to work with it rather than against it."
But, I think, students still need to know that if they are looking for general background information, properties, or any specific information on hightech companies, they will need to use other resources such corptech, or library subscribed online encyclopedias which can be accessed through the library's website.


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