Sunday, 3 March 2013

Google Scholar: searching and referencing

30 trillion individual pages. One hundred billion searches a month.

We all do it. And probably more than once a day. Searching for information on the Web. But how many of us understand how searches function and more importantly how can we search efficiently and save academic references for further use?

                                Figure 1

 I stumbled across this Google search infographic  yesterday. It explains in a simple manner how Google search functions. I was aware of  crawlers and algorithms, the constant battle that search engines have with spams and the intuitive nature of searches, but it's interesting to see the steps displayed visually. Have a browse through the infographic and click on the links for further information. When you arrive at the bottom you'll be amazed to see how many searches have taken place during the one to two minutes that it  took you to scan through the information.

You'll also find a link for educators which will direct you to a page that has further links to lesson plans and activities, power search training, the Google a day challenge and live trainings. As  teachers, I feel it's our responsibility to help students develop their search skills and these resources here, are certainly worth putting to use for this purpose. Of course it's not only students whose skills need honing. After viewing this webinar below about Google Scholar, from the live training link, I realized I could also cut more corners when searching for academic articles, books and journals. It's worth taking the time to view it if you feel your digital literacies could be more fluent in this specific area.

Figure 2. Source: You Tube. Google Scholar. D. Russell 2011

I've created a very brief summary here of some of the tips given   in case you don't have sufficient time to view the whole video yet.

Open Google Scholar, press on the arrow and take advantage of the advanced search function (see figure 3).

                                     Figure 3

This window below will open. Type in your search.The more specific the better.
                                 Figure 4

Once results have been retrieved, there are a few things to have a quick look at for further assistance (see figure 5 below):

1. This figure relates to the number of times this paper, book , journal article etc, has been cited. Clicking on 'Cited', guides you to these links for further research.
2. Related articles leads you to topically related articles.
3. In some cases you'll have a choice of versions to read.
4. Clicking this will give you the citation for your own document.   A screenshot of this is given below.
5. Some articles will have a pdf link for downloading.

    Figure 5

As stated in number 4 above, clicking on 'Cite' will open this window below ( Figure 6).
1. You can paste the link directly into the reference list in your document or you can import it into your bibliography manager  (see 2). 
 Depending on which referencing system you are using, such as, Harvard or A.P.A, you may have to adjust the citation to suit. However, some of the bibliographic mangers have this function so it's a simple matter of clicking a button to make the relevant adjustment. In any case, it's an enormous time saver being able to use the reference and  efficient from a workflow perspective.

    Figure 6

This is just a small sample of tips included in the above webinar which can help you narrow down your search more efficiently. Naturally for formal  research you'll be accessing other portals for your searches as well, but if you're using Google Scholar, make the most of the affordances the tool has to offer and be aware of what added extras are available within other portals.  Take time to hone your search skills and ensure that your students' search strategies are efficient. It will save time, improve workflow efficiency and bring you and your students another step closer to becoming more digitally fluent. 


Google Inside Search (2013) How Search Works [online] Available at (Accessed 3 March 2013)

Using Google Scholar and other Google Resources (2011), You Tube video, D. Russell [online].
Available at (Accessed 3 March 2013)

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