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Greg Notess on Scholarly Web Searching: Google Scholar and Scirus

:: Greg Notess, librarian at Montana State U and creator of Search Engine Showdown, reviews and compares Google Scholar and Scirus in his latest On The Net column in Online:

Google introduced a brand-new concept with Google Scholar [http://scholar.google.com]—specialized search aimed at finding scholarly information on the Web. With an initial focus on research articles from publishers participating in the CrossRef project and several collections of online preprints and other major scholarly sites, Google established a new approach to a broad range of scholarly literature (although its original coverage was stronger in science and technology than in the social sciences). In true Google fashion, the new search tool not only displayed links to individual documents, it also included citation references extracted from other documents using special algorithms developed at Google.

Some librarians decried this poaching of our information space, while Google advocates foresaw Scholar as the first and only source for research information. We have seen this type of rhetoric before. Remember when Google launched Google Answers back in 2002? The ensuing hue and cry bemoaned how this would compete with library reference services. Google Answers continues as a fee service, but it is certainly not a major Google money-maker, nor has it caused the death of library and information services anywhere.

Is Google Scholar destined for a similar fate? Time will tell whether it becomes a major access tool and replaces some of the traditional indexing and abstracting services or ends up as yet another orphaned initiative. In the meantime, it offers certain benefits and uses, as do several other free Web-based scholarly search tools such as Scirus. Unfortunately, none are even close to comprehensive. Each tool covers one segment exclusively or in very different ways.

I am curious to know who is using either of these tools, and to what extent? I ask because I seldom use Google Scholar or Scirus, largely because I work in a library system that offers most of the key subject databases and e-publications needed by its users. I wonder if Google Scholar and Scirus are being used or promoted by librarians working in institutions without access to key dbs and e-resources required by their clientele.