Using the Internet for academic research may have just become easier because of a new academic search engine created by the well-known Internet portal Google.
Google last month released a beta, or experimental, version of a new search engine with those in academia specifically in mind, www.scholar.google.com. Dubbed Google Scholar, this latest development from Google allows students to search through only the portion of Google’s catalog that contains published materials from scholarly journals, books, theses and technical reports.
Many University students have been slow to find out about Google Scholar. RC freshman Elizabeth Dushaw is one of the few students who has explored the new search engine. Hearing about Google Scholar from her boyfriend in Europe, Dushaw recently used the search engine to locate information related to Noam Chomsky.
“It worked well for what I was searching for,” explained Durshaw, though she admitted, “I don’t really have another use for it yet.”
“They are not just going to stop there. It is only in beta, and I would expect further development,” said Linda TerHaar, head of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. “I think the possibilities for this are very exciting. For school research up until now, there really wasn’t a whole lot you could do with Google.”
Though Google has made deals with several publishers to provide students with online access to their published material, some search results are not available online, including most books under copyright. If the search comes up with material that is not published online, Google Scholar allows the user to search local libraries or find online stores that sell the resource.
Just like the original Google search engine, Google Scholar arranges search results in order of most relevance to the search query. However, when searching for a famous person, the search engine often pulls up academic research articles published by people with the same last name.
For instance, the first result listed when “John Lennon” is entered into the search query of Google Scholar is a study on low-grade inflammation and coronary heart disease by Lucy Lennon and other researchers, not an article pertaining to the famed Beatles frontman.
Google says that they are continually working to include additional sources within their index.
A benefit to students and others attempting to locate legitimate sources for research is that Google Scholar saves students from the burden of sifting through the usual mountain of amateur websites indexed by most normal search engines. Google Scholar does not index personal websites, such as Bob’s Fun Webpage of American History.
“It seems like it would probably save a lot of time. The last thing you want to do is go through random web pages when you’re trying to do a report,” LSA sophomore Nicole Harzdorf said.
Most University faculty say they have yet to explore Google Scholar. After being informed about the new search engine, English lecturer Frank Handstein conducted his first search on the site for information about land laws during the 17th century, the topic of his dissertation. Pleased with the search results, Handstein said he found many relevant articles.
“This certainly is another resource. What I like about it is that you get actual PDF files and that the sources seem reliable,” he said.
Containing only published material, Google Scholar has the potential to develop into a one-stop source for students who do not want to visit the library or navigate its website when researching for classes. TerHaar, however, does not anticipate Google Scholar will pose any more of a problem than the original Google search engine, explaining that most college students are smart about using the Internet to conduct research.
“People already have a basis to work from. We’re just going to have to expand these skills,” TerHaar said.