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Digital Culture

Google Scholar

It appears that Google has launched a new beta project: Google Scholar.

Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

I’ve done some test searches, and the results are really interesting. I googled myself to see what would come up, and indeed my Master’s Paper was the first result. Not only that, but instead of linking to it from the UNC Library Science Master’s Paper Index, it linked directly to my local copy on my own webspace. How did it know that it was a “scholarly paper”?

In addition to searches by topic, keyword, author (and combinations of those) it also ‘tags’ the results so that you are told when a result is a book, citation, pdf or other identifiable object, and if it is a book, there’s a library search (powered by OCLC) that will check to see if it’s in your local library.

There are issues, though…when I did a search for “Lawrence Lessig” I obtained a TON of results (obviously) but they weren’t grouped in a logical manner. For example, two of his books (Code and The Future of Ideas) were the first results. His book Free Culture, however, didn’t show up until page 4, and even then the link wasn’t to the freely downloadable version or even the webpage associated with it.

In the FAQ, Google addresses many of the questions I think that librarians will have about this service from patrons…things like:

My university subscribes to the Journal of Prosimian Dialectical Reasoning. How do I read the full text of their articles?
Please check with your university library. You may need to do searches from a campus computer or use a library proxy.

and

Is there any way I can read the full text without being a subscriber (to the journal in question)?
Check a nearby academic library, which will likely have a copy. For books, click on “Library Search” next to the title to find a library near you that has a copy of the work in question (this service is provided courtesy of OCLC).

I’m incredibly excited about this. The next step, in my mind, is to include Creative Commons metadata in the results list, so that we can see from the first search which are “open” and which are not. If Google and CC work together on this, it could potentially pressure more and more academic presses into using a CC model (if most people are finding articles using Google Scholar, and CC content is listed or ranked differently, there could be a pressure towards that model).

Any way you go, we’re talking about exciting possibilities for scholars. Esp. if the Google API is released for this specific area, and universities can tailor it to their own uses. Branded library search pages! This could be very cool.

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