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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 <http://scholar.google.com> 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 http://www.gale.oroup.com/servlet/reference/archive/200412/googlescholar.html.
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.
For those few brave souls who not only read last month’s Google Hacks on the Advanced Mode and thought to get a jump on things by playing with Expert Mode, I apologize. As you discovered, there is no tab, no link for Expert Mode. I lied, but only a little. Expert Mode is simply the ability to fully qualify a search by specifying exactly where you want to look. This so-called expert mode is actually done in the basic search screen. Combined with the basic operators (see Google Hacks II: http://library.wingate.edu/news/EKS_Libris/EKSLibris0501.pdf) one is able to approximate the detail level of searching that professionals do as a matter of course. Below are some examples:
- Intitle: restricts the search to words within the title of an HTML page. This is handy because web-pages rarely have anything like subject headings, but a title tends to encapsulate what a page is about. Phrases are put in quotes. For fun, compare the results of using the in title qualifier against the same search without it.
- Syntax – intitle:”search string“
- Example –intitle:”ontological argument”
- Link: looks at links within a page. Think of it a citation search. One should not use quote marks since the URL is single string of characters without spaces. It is also unnecessary to prefix the search with “http://”
- Syntax – link:url
- Example – link: iep.utm.edu
- Related: ever find a great site, but don’t want to wade through a huge list to find others like it? The related key finds sites that are similar to each other. For instance, www.iep.utm.edu is an online encyclopedia of philosophy. To find other philosophy sites, one would enter iep.utm.edu as the argument.
- Syntax – related:url
- Example – related:iep.utm.edu
- Site: limits your search to specific domains. The beauty of the site qualifier is that it applies both to top level domains (e.g. .edu or .gov) and specific domains (e.g. wingate.edu or loc.gov). For instance, if you were looking for information on global warming and wanted to restrict yourself to information from the federal government, you could try “global warming” site:gov.
- Syntax – site:domain
- Examples – site:edu, site:loc.gov, site:nc.us
- Phonebook: it won’t replace other directory services, but yesyou can use Google to find phone numbers and as a cross directory.
- Syntax (find phone number) – phonebook:name [city] state
- Examples — phonebook:weltblaten nc, phonebook:karl weblaten raleigh nc
- Syntax (find name) – phonebook: phone number
- Example — phonebook:(555) 555-5555
Google: Advanced Mode
Anyone who has sat in on any bibliographic session with Susan Sganga or has overheard Richard Pipes counseling a student on the best way to use NC-LIVE has heard something like this “Advanced Mode is better and easier to use.” It’s true too: the so-called advanced modes in the various NC-LIVE databases allow users to zoom right to what they need; provided they know a little bit about how the data is structured. For instance, if you want critical essays about C. S. Lewis, it makes sense to treat Lewis as a subject or descriptor, not just a keyword.
The open secret is that Google also has an advanced mode; it’s even a hyperlink on its homepage. Because web pages generally don’t have the same level of descriptive detail (called metadata) as one would find in a commercial database and because Google’s relevance ranking works so well, the advanced search is not often used for searches. However, casual searching may not be enough when one is truly doing research on the web. At that point, Advanced Mode can be very useful. Read the rest of this entry »
In the last issue of EKS Libris, we took a look at was Google is and what it is not. This time we will look at some basic issues of syntax that if attended to, will enhance your search results. In the case of Google (and any other search engine) “syntax” refers to the way a query or search argument is constructed. While the Google search engine does go a long way to make sense of the sort of language you and I use, it really is trying to fit our way of communicating with the way computers analyze data. Read the rest of this entry »