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Google and Scholarly Sources

February 11th, 2005 by jimm wetherbee in Reference

Google indexes a huge amount of information from the web, but like any other engine that searches the web, it is often hit or miss when it comes to scholarly sources. You’ve heard it from the librarians in Bibliographic Instruction Classes: For books. see the online catalog, for scholarly sources NC-LIVE, and if you want to take your chances, try Google,” Well, there are some things that Google is doing to blur the distinction we librarians have only now been able to clearly draw. Welcome to the world of Google Scholar.

Google Scholar <> is in beta (beta means its in a public testing mode) project where Google is in charge of running its search engine against various commercial databases for journals such as Blackwell and Wiley Interscience), hooks such as OCLC’s Open URL project) and a few selective web pages. Using the same techniques illustrated for the regular Google, Google Scholar will provide citations to full-text electronic articles, abstracts to selective books, and access to high-quality web-sites.

Google Scholar is not, however, an alternative to NC-LIVE or the online catalog. The first thing you will notice is that you have to pay to see the full text of articles. Remember, Google is linking you to commercial sites which expect you to pay for their services. This would be true even if the Library has a subscription to the full text on NC-LIVE because Google Scholar doesn’t know what this library has in subscription. As a result, if you find articles on Google Scholar, you still have to check NC- LIVE and if it isn’t available either submit an Inter-library Loan request or (if you need the article immediately) pay the publisher. These articles, by the way, are not inexpensive. Related to this, Google is rather cagey about what its coverage looks like. Some reviewers (after performing many, many searches) have a good idea, and are not altogether impressed. This lack of coverage includes books. One would be better off searching WorldCat on NC-LIVE for books; though it is nice to be able to search for books and articles all at the same time, For a detailed review of Google Scholar, see the December issue of Peter’s Digital Reference Shelf

Two more innovations on Google’s part are worth noting, The first note-worthy innovation is GooglePrint (also in beta). Google, much like Amazon,com, is abstracting the cover, copyright material, table of contents and first few pages of selective books. This way, one can scan a hook for relevance before looking for it in the online catalog or asking for an inter-library loan. Second, in December Google announced that it would start scanning the contents of the libraries of the University of Michigan, Harvard Stanford, Oxford and the New York Public Library. In the case of the University of Michigan and Stanford, the entire contents of the main libraries are to be scanned; for the rest, only portions of the collection will be scanned. Those books that are in the public domain will be freely distributed; those still under copyright protection will work much as Google Print, although faculty and students at the respective universities will have access to all the content Google plans for this project to take six years (which may be optimistic) and there is no word about just how these books will be indexed. It is something to look forward to, however.

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