TOKYO: This situation, and everything that precedes it, is going to be more difficult if you don’t know about Google Scholar. Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research.
One of the reasons science librarians prefer subscription-based databases (i.e. SciFinder or Web of Science) or those offered as a service of the government (i.e. Pub Med) is the nonstandard behavior of Google Scholar when compared to those resources. Google Scholar is not a bibliographic index, it is a search engine. It does not sort results by relevance; it ranks them according to metadata. It crawls for papers from all across the web, not limiting its results to published documents. These differences make librarians skeptical of Google Scholar, but they do not speak to its actual performance.
In the information profession, there is a lot of talk about whether Google Scholar is a good resource for academics and, generally, librarians are hesitant to say that it is, especially if they work with science research. Librarians are a user-centered group, and understand that students like Google Scholar and use it often. But when science students ask about using Google Scholar for their research, many science librarians provide a response that advises students to be extra critical of search results found there or even direct them to different resources all together.
Despite its faults, librarians should warm up to Google Scholar. They should play with it and test it alongside the old stand-bys as they do their own research and answer reference questions. Depending on the research topic, it can provide some relevant sources that might not be found outside of Google Scholar. Users should be advised to be critical of information found by any means, but perhaps be more vigilant with Google Scholar. For that reason, Google Scholar should be included in library instruction to familiarize users with its functionality as well as its limitations. Knowing how to get the most out of all resources is important for librarians; Google Scholar shouldn’t be excluded simply because it’s unconventional.