Whether we like it or not, academics are increasingly recognizing the role that Google searches play in scholarly research. For undergraduate students in particular, Google is often the first place consulted when starting the gathering process for research essays, and even libraries (such as Simon Fraser University’s newly launched
Fast Search tool—(a topic for a later post) are working on a Google-like platform. What many students do not know, however, is that Google has an alternative site,
Google Scholar, to help narrow the vast field of search results prompted by a typical non-specific Google search.
I like to think of Google Scholar as a "pre-research" or useful adjunct to the more targeted and dynamic academic research that students should carry out through the library resources at their individual universities. Covering peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts, and other scholarly literature from all broad areas of research, Google Scholar does provide a good starting point and has the added benefit of identifying full-text sources for articles—this is a terrific feature since these links can often be accessed with a simple click if you are logged into your home university library and that library subscribes to the journal database the article is housed with. Still, many critics of Google scholar are correct to point out the search engine’s deficiencies (see this article for a good example of what to consider), and I agree that Google Scholar should be used as part of a broader arsenal of research tools.
CBC's Tod Maffin has produced a very useful four part series,“Secret Google Tips for Researchers,” on the official blog of the CBC InsideTheCBC.com that I have compiled on a YouTube playlist for your convenience.