Using Google Scholar to keep up with the literature

We have all bemoaned the increasing difficulty of keeping up with the growing body of literature. Many of us, me included, have been relying increasingly on following only a subset of journals, but with the growing popularity of the large open-access journals I know I for one am increasingly likely to miss papers. The purpose of this post isn’t to give you the panacea to your problems (sadly I don’t think there is a panacea to this issue, though I have hopes that someone will come up with something viable in the future). The purpose of this post is to let you know about an interesting addition or alternative (for the brave) to the frantic scanning of the table of contents or RSS feeds: Google Scholar.

Almost everyone at this point knows you can go to Google Scholar and search for key words and it’ll produce a list of papers. Did you also know that you can set up a google profile with your published articles and that Google can use that to find articles that might be of interest to you. How does it do that? I’ll have to quote Google’s Blog because it’s a little like voodoo to me (obviously this is Morgan writing this post, not Ethan): “We determine relevance using a statistical model that incorporates what your work is about, the citation graph between articles, the fact that interests can change over time, and the authors you work with and cite. “ When you go to Google Scholar’s homepage (and you’re logged in as you) it’ll notify you if there are new articles on your suggested list. I actually have been pleasantly surprised by the articles it has identified for me, including some book chapters I would never have seen.  For example here’s several things that sound really interesting to me, but I would never have seen:

The importance of body size, abundance, and food-web structure for ecosystem functioning

MC Emmerson – Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: …, 2012 –

The Limitations of Hierarchical Organization*

A Potochnik, B McGill – Philosophy of Science, 2012 – JSTOR

On Allometry Relations

D West, J BRUCE – International Journal of Modern Physics B, 2012 – World Scientific

It doesn’t just search published journal articles. For example there are preprints from arXiv and government reports on my list. I don’t know if this would work as well for the young graduate students/postdocs since it uses the citations in your existing papers and our junior colleagues might have less data for Google to work with. However, once you have a profile, you can also follow other people who have profiles, which means you get an email every time scholarly work gets added to their profile. Are you a huge Simon Levin groupie? You can follow him and every time a paper gets added to his profile, you can get an email alerting you about the new paper.  I also use this to follow a bunch of interesting younger people because they often publish less frequently or in journals I don’t happen to follow and this way I don’t miss their stuff when my Google Reader hits 1000+ articles to be perused! You can also sign up for alerts when someone you follow has their work cited. (And you can set up alerts for when your own work gets cited as well).

As I said before, I don’t think Google Scholar is a one-stop literature monitoring stop (yet), but I find it useful for getting me out of my high impact factor monitoring rut.  The only thing you need to do is set up your Google Scholar profile and the only reason not to do that is if you’re worried it’ll give Google the edge when it finally becomes self-aware and renames itself Skynet (ha ha ha ha….hmmm).

8 Comments on “Using Google Scholar to keep up with the literature

  1. Ok, I’ve tried this out. I was initially skeptical, but it’s useful. Not a substitute for my other filtering rules, but a useful complement. It found a couple of things I really want to read from venues I don’t ordinarily pay attention to. And while it also threw up a lot of stuff I already knew about or didn’t care that much about, the percentage of useful stuff was high enough that I’ll keep using it.

  2. Pingback: Advice: using Google Scholar to keep up with the literature | Dynamic Ecology

  3. I had no idea you could do this. I always have hundreds of unread items on my RSS reader, so it would be great to get some more targeted suggestions. Very cool!

  4. Ben, Glad you found it useful. I have the same problem overpopulation problem with my reader and I’ve been enjoying this as an alternative to the guilt my reader engenders!

  5. I really like the feature as well, I get papers I’m generally interested in, but there’s a few weird ones, like “A methodology for Predictive Maintenance in Semiconductor Manufacturing”. Presumably the use of one or two infrequently used words in some of my papers resulted in weird suggestions like these. Anyway, google scholar combined with a couple journal RSS feeds has let me keep up to date, in general.

  6. Pingback: Keeping up with the literature . . . « Enquist Laboratory news blog

  7. The well-known Hollywood studios can no longer specify what exactlythe general public want or can get as they have in earlier times. When you add to that distribution world wide web, news reports, internet sites, from gossip to whole motion pictures. It’s just a brand-new environment. Much of it really good, some not.

  8. Pingback: Useful science communication resources | Small Pond Science

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