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Skepticism of Google Scholar is merited

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Skepticism of Google Scholar is merited. Google Scholar is lacking as a scholarly search tool because, first and foremost, it is not an abstracting and indexing service like the bibliographic databases frequently recommended by librarians. Those databases have literature indexed, often by humans, allowing it to be categorized with a controlled vocabulary and subject headings. Google Scholar is a search engine and as such it searches the full text, bibliographic information, and metadata of electronic documents. The computer programming that allows this to happen lacks the objective eye of a human indexer and, consequently, data is interpreted incorrectly and questionable sources pass through algorithms. Google Scholar’s methods of document retrieval are contrary to librarians’ understanding and expectation of information organization. Google Scholar’s inability or unwillingness to elaborate on what documents its system crawls and the uncertain quality of Google Scholar’s performance provides further reasons for information professionals and researchers to be wary of this tool, especially when so many quality databases exist and seem to sufficiently meet scientific information needs.

Gray, Jerry E. Scholarish: Google Scholar and its Value to the Sciences. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Summer 2012. Available from:


Written by hbasset

August 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Posted in literature

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One Response

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  1. Google Scholar is free (as is Scirus), while the likes of Scopus and Web of Science are subscriber only. For the general public, Google Scholar is an excellent tool, and for the research Google Scholar is able to return some new sources that do not show up elsewhere, especially conference proceedings and repository content.


    August 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

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