It’s ok to be lazy with the Google Scholar Button
researchers. The Google Scholar Button has become a hit in the past few
weeks. It also almost made me cry with joy. What is so useful about it?
The Google Scholar Button extension is currently available for both Chrome and Firefox browsers,
which means for the majority of Internet users. The add-on has already
been installed by more than 374 thousand Chrome users and 27 thousand
Firefox users (there are plenty of scholars around the world, right?)
What is more, the extension is highlighted among “the hottest” on the
official Firefox add-ons website. The button grabbed almost everyone’s
attention as a tool for speeding up the search of full texts academic
articles in the Google Scholar database, which provides links to
millions of free papers. Although, in my opinion the really nice thing
about the Google Scholar Button is that it makes another step, managing
references, super easy.
I will confide my little secret to you. I hate the moment when I need
to add a reference to my text, but I do not remember all the
biographical data of the work I want to cite. Usually, I only remember
the author’s name, or in the worst case, what the text was about and
some essential keywords. When I was an undergraduate student I did not
have my own computer (yes, it was in 21st century), and I had to go a
library to borrow several books or journals and scan them manually to
find the texts I needed and to create proper references. It got a little
bit better when I started using a PC with Internet connection, and a
lot better when I learned about BibTex (read more here about how to manage a bibliography with BibTex). But the Google Scholar Button, which appeared last month, almost made me cry with tears of joy.
Citing is a piece of cake now!
Let me show you how it works with an example. I write a sentence down
in my notebook that I want to cite, but, oy gevalt! I forgot to write
down the source of the sentence. Then I start my browser, I click on the
Google Scholar Button, which is on my toolbar and type in the small,
elegant window the phrase I want to cite. Google Scholar shows me the
search results in the same window, then I click cite and get a ready
BibTex entry, which I can add to my bibliography file. This way, I have a
properly formatted citation in my text just a few clicks away from the
point when I could hardly remember the name of the author that I wanted
When you find the academic text mentioned on the website (the title
of an article, or some phrases cited) and you want to find the full text
of the source article, you can just highlight the text and click on the
button. It will provide you with a link to the full text (if it is
available in the Google Scholar database) and use the “cite” option in
the very same, elegant window.
Not the first add-on of this kind
There are other add-ons, which offered similar possibilities before
the launch of the Button (i.e. search in Google Scholar). However, the
GS Button has a really great interface, which makes searching and citing
even quicker than in the case of former extensions of this kind. The
exception is Lazy Scholar,
an extension for Chrome, created by an individual developer, Colby
Vorland, much earlier than the launch of the Button, which has some very
similar features, but in my experience it searches less effectively for
content. Often I find no results when searching for a text with Lazy
Scholar, but I do when using the GS Button (I really do not know the
reason for that). Although maybe Lazy Scholar is seen as a good
alternative for researchers working in other fields.
Is it wise to use the Google Scholar database in research work?
Since there has been a lot of criticism towards Google Scholar and
its limitations as a source for academic work are well known, is it a
good idea to use this database at all? Is Google Scholar Button a nice
addition to a useless service?
Google Scholar indexes everything that is cited in articles or books,
which it treats as “scholarly”, and scholars cite not only other
scholars but also other kinds of literature (as far as press articles,
etc.), which they might use as research material. Website owners may
also have their websites crawled as trusted sources of academic content,
which results in their content being added to Google Scholar. We do not
know anything about the criteria Google Scholar uses for this
procedure. We only know that journalism, opinions, blog posts,
pseudo-science and very low quality academic articles are indexed there
(have a look here for more information). Jeffrey Beall, a well known opponent of open access, recently called Google Scholar “the world’s largest index of junk science”, which immediately resulted in him being accused of hypocrisy, since he is promoting his very own profile on Google Scholar on his website, as I understand, to publicise his research works.
And this is all true about Google Scholar. This database simply
indexes a lot of works (including Beall’s ones). What is wonderful about
it, is that it allows us to quickly search, and immediately access
biographical data and, very often, the full text of an article, which
can otherwise be very hard to find. Almost every good academic article
is indexed in Google Scholar, which make the database an irreplaceable
tool for every scholar. Not every article indexed there is
scientifically sound, and some of them are science fiction. But for me
this is only a reason not to use Google Scholar to count citations, and
to not use it mechanically and uncritically.
To sum it up, I am not surprised that the discussed extension is
installed in around 400 thousand browsers. Google Scholar and its Button
will make the lives of a lot of researchers much easier.
It’s ok to be lazy with the Google Scholar Button | Open Science