Compass is an archive of Library news from 2005 - 2008. For the latest Library news check the Library Blogs.
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   Volume II, Issue 4
May 2006   

Google Scholar and Falvey: A Winning Partnership

Villanova University students, faculty and staff can now retrieve full-text scholarly articles from many of Falvey’s online subscription services when searching Google Scholar by following a few simple steps.

Google Scholar, a subset of the popular Google search engine, has all the ease of searching that has made “googling” an everyday term, especially for users frustrated by the complexities of more traditional online databases. Launched in November 2004, Google Scholar is still in beta version and refinements continue to be added, such as the ability to limit a search by date range. Results are ranked by relevance. As explained on Google Scholar’s information page, "Relevance ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared, and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature." Another feature especially appreciated by faculty members is the “Cited by” link allowing them to identify the latest publications citing their work.

Google Scholar’s web crawlers index selected publications of major scholarly publishers such as Macmillan, Wiley and University of Chicago, as well as their online publishing facilitators, High Wire Press, MetaPress and Ingenta. While the new search engine is especially strong in the areas of science and technology, it also indexes articles from Project Muse, a major online collection of humanities journals. Google does not provide a complete list its sources. However, the company is committed to expanding its indexing universe and may eventually enrich it with the contents of Google Print, a project launched in early 2005 to digitize the wealth of printed sources held by five major research libraries.

This new scholarly research wonder is not without its critics.“Stunning gaps” in coverage, as Péter Jacsó notes (p. 208), can leave inexperienced undergraduate searchers with the erroneous impression of having found everything pertinent to their topic. Many information professionals are disturbed by Google’s secretiveness with regard to the corpus of publications it indexes, and they also wonder how long Google Scholar will maintain its advertisement-free status. However, the most serious concern is that students will ignore their library’s subscription databases, paid for with their tuition dollars and providing more inclusive coverage of scholarly journals.

Martin Kesselman and Sarah Barbara Watstein align themselves on the positive side of the Google Scholar debate. They point out that name recognition and intuitiveness make students more apt to use Google Scholar and therefore to plunge into searching. This in turn provides attentive classroom and information literacy instructors with opportunities to initiate discussions of higher-level research issues which may include the following: 
     Google Scholar’s place in the research process

     Relevance ranking

     Citation indexing

     The evolving nature of scholarly publishing

These exchanges can eventually lead students to the realization that “as more and more research is interdisciplinary in nature, relying on any single source can be problematic,” (p. 385) and that good research should never be limited to a single database or search engine.

Google welcomes comments and suggestions from users on its new research product.  Users welcome this new search engine that combines powerful indexing of scholarly output with simplicity of use.

Suggestions for further reading:
Mullen, Laura B., &  Hartman, Karen A. (2006). Google Scholar and the library Web site: The early response by ARL libraries. College & Research Libraries, 67(2): 106-122.

Jacsó, Péter. (2005). Google Scholar: The pros and the cons. Online Information Review, 29(2), 208-214.

Kesselman, Martin, & Watstein, Sarah B. (2005). Google Scholar and libraries: Point/counterpoint. Reference Services Review, 33(4): 380-387.

Young, Jeffrey R. (20 May, 2005). 100 colleges sign up with Google to speed access to library resources. Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(37): 30. 
Young, Jeffrey R., & Carlson, Scott. (7 January, 2005). Google will digitize and search millions of books from 5 top research libraries. Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(18): 37-40.

Contributed by Barbara Quintiliano, Instructional Design Librarian.