November 24, 2004

Jay Bhatt on Google Scholar

Jay Bhatt, Information Services Librarian (Engineering) of Drexel University's Hagerty Library recently posted a long meditation on Google Scholar on the eldnet-l listserv. Jay makes a lot of very valid points about the limitation of Google Scholar, ones we should all pay close attention to when trying to steer our patrons to other resources that are, at least for the time being, more relevant to their needs. The only sneaking suspicions I have are that the deficiencies Jay mentions are only temporary....

Jay has kindly allowed me to quote his email here. I've decided to include it in it's entirety. Without further ado:

There are five areas that the present version of Google Scholar does not cover:

1. It does not index online electronic books and handbooks such as those from engnetbase, neurosciencenetbase, environetbase, infosecuritynetbase, materialsnetbase, and knovel, etc. It becomes even more important to educate our students especially those working on Freshman and Senior Design Projects, to use electronic books and the books available in print when they need to develop sufficient background in their project areas before using Google Scholar. We want them not to carried away by Google Scholar so much that they ignore other important resources. Especially for design projects, scholarly interature is just a component of their research; not the only component.

2. Conference papers indexed in Ei village (engineering village) appears toe not yet available in Google Scholar. I did a search for 'Biomaterials' limiting to only conference articles in Engineering Village2. I found 507 articles in Engineering Village. I tried a few in Google Scholar but could not find.

3. We may not be able to download citations to Refworks to create your bibliography. Students will need to add them manually if they want to add them in Refworks.This will be time consuming.

4. Advanced features such as searching within just Abstract rather than Full Text may not be available. Limiting search using advanced features avilable tends to increase relevancy of articles.

5. Google Scholar does not provide what is being covered, what journals are indexed, what other databases are covered, so just relying on Google Scholar may not be helpful.

6. Searching online codes (MAD CAD) is not available in Google Scholar. MAD CAD is very heavily used by our Senior Design students.

"Subscription based MAD-CAD contains the building codes and knowledge based solutions and guidelines to meet the codes. MAD-CAD provides access to a comprehensive cross-referenced collection of building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire, maintenance codes from BOCA, SBCCI, ICBO, ICC, and NFPA; and state and local codes. This comprehensive set of codes in conjunction with the search engine and organizational tools provide an intelligent and efficient system for architectural, engineering and educational solutions.".

7. Computer Science/IST - Books24x7, Safari, Lecture Notes in Computer Science - are important not yet available in Google Scholar. As the name implies ('Scholar'), they will not be available in future, too.

8. One can not browse among diferent volumes/issues of a particular journal.

No doubt Google Scholar appears to be a great product, but we need to consider
these limitations and promote them during our classes so that students will try to use other resources and simply not carried away by Google Scholar. I do like Google Scholar but I wanted to bring these issues. Lastly, there is a human component that Google Scholar can not provide.

Recently, I had our meeting with Freshman engineering faculty members to discuss planning for our Freshman engineering library sessions during the winter term.. I am including some important points that we discussed from the instructional perspectives.

They liked our ideas of the multidisciplinary subject headings to address searching for biomedical engineering related information in several databases. Based on our discussion during the meeting, we are going to develop a one page hand out on examples of citations from variety of sources (one from handbook, one from a library book found using the catalog (print), one from encyclopdedia, one from website, one from journal article, and one from conference proceedings). This page will be used as a reference for students as they develop their bibliography.

Discussion on Refworks was extremely well received. Infact, they all loved it. One faculty member suggested that we point out during the class that last year some students received poor grades because they did not co-ordinate well with their team members. Collaborating using Refworks in building a 'Group Bibliography' with each member of the team contributing, will be one way to improve co-ordination and
co-operation among others. This suggestion was applauded by all faculty members present including us.

They are going to ask their students to follow the sample reference page and write their bibliography in that style. Either APA or MLA style will be used but students can use IEEE/ASCE style in Refworks. No decision has been made as yet if they are going to require students to use one style.

Interestingly, they all knew about Google Scholar; we argued and tried to convince them that it is NOT the only tool and that students need to look at other resources, ebooks, handbooks, library books, and conference papers for a complete search. They all agreed wholeheartedly. Importance of building codes and specific material properties also came up (google scholar will not find them). They all agreed that we spend a few minutes in our talk to highlight our library resources, and in what situations Google Scholar is good, when it can be used, and when library subscribed other resources should be used. We will add one slide in our Powerpoint to address them. Importance of library consultations by students with librarians was again stressed by many faculty members. Two instructors are using webCT; we will plan to link our tutorial in those two faculty member's sections. This will be app. 8 sections out of the 27 sections.

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