Archive for January, 2008

Google Scholar not scholarly enough?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Data from 2007 looking at various Google services, reveals that usage of Google Scholar declined by nearly a third last year. Those who have followed Google Scholar closely, are not overly surprised, saying that there has not been enough development of the service.

Librarians and Information Professionals have consistently taken Google Scholar to task for not revealing the sources they use, questioned the citation data it produces and asked for enhanced search options. But at the same time they have taken on board the reality that it will be used by students and therefore sought to guide them to get the most out of it.

Perhaps “Googleisation” has not gone far enough. Many databases and other search tools provided by universities, still need tutorials and guides to help users get through their complex interfaces. One of the key lessons from Google Scholar may well be that users want easy-to-use services and that they do not find the process of finding / locating information as interesting as we do.

One of the other issues that something like Google Scholar raises, is how to retrieve search results at the item level. Subject communities have produced such services themselves, for example, RePec features 75% of the world’s top 1000 economists and provides access to hundreds of thousands of articles via the EconPapers service.

And how will Scholar sit in the Google family of products when their Palimpsest project comes to fruition and will they join up their work on open data and academic publications? Without significant further development it is hard to view Google Scholar as anything other than a missed opportunity.

Explore some of the debate around Google Scholar via these del.icio.us links.

Google is White Bread for the Mind

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Professor Tara Brabazon will give her inaugural lecture tomorrow, Weds 16th January at the University of Brighton, entitled “Google is White Bread for the Mind“.

She will argue that “universities must teach students to question, argue, debate and challenge, rather than accept the ‘facts’ from Wikipedia or the rankings of Google”.

“Wikipedia and user-generated content are creating an age of banality and mediocrity by providing consensual information and stifling debate. Students must be trained to be dynamic and critical thinkers rather than drifting to the first site returned through Google”.

Her views have already generated some interesting articles in the media:

The Telegraph writes: “Academic condemns ‘University of Google’

The Times Online article “White bread for young minds says university professor” has sparked a number of comments from readers around the World.

Professor Brabazon has been teaching in universities for over 10 years and has a number of related publications, most recently a book entitled “The University of Google: Education in the (Post) Information Age” which was introduced in an article in the Times Higher in November 2007 in the article “Boomers in thrall to a Wiki Universe

For those wishing to hear more first-hand, Professor Brabazon will be giving the keynote speech at The Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conferences (LILAC), 17th – 19th March 2008 at Liverpool John Moores University.

Personally I applaud Professor Brabazon for raising this debate, as the impact of the Internet on university learning and research is a vital area for research and analysis, given that so much has changed in the last ten years.

I would agree that Internet research skills should be actively taught as a formal part of the university curriculum. Students may well be savvy when it comes to using new Internet technologies, but they need help and guidance on finding and using Web resources that are appropriate for academic work.

Internet research skills fit well within Study Skills, Research Methods or Information Literacy modules. Our research suggests that while these skills are taught by some in some universities, there is not standard practice or strategy.

Is it time for Internet research skills to be added to the QAA Subject Benchmark Statements for all UK university degree courses?