Using Google Scholar

10 Jul

Outside of the universities, most people learn about science through secondary media sources. These sources can be quite valuable allowing knowledgeable individuals to interpret important research findings to the public. Deric Bownd’s Mindblog is an excellent example of this approach and, of course, this blog is itself a secondary source. On the other hand, media can sometimes distort or sensationalize research findings.

One of the great untapped possibilities of the internet is that primary research literature is now much more available to the public. In most cases you can find, at least, the abstract of important research reports. Often you can find the entire research paper on line. This means that you have the opportunity to read research without filters. In my opinion the easiest way to access research is through Google Scholar.

Google Scholar searches published research and patents. Let’s say we were interested in the reading the research on aspirin and Alzheimer’s disease. All we would have to do is to open Google Scholar and enter the relevant search terms.

search terms

Note that I have unchecked the box for patent search since they would not be relevant in this case. Here are the search results:

search results date sorted

A couple of things to note. The links tend to be links to abstracts, however, the original papers are often available as pdfs in the right hand column.

Google Scholar also gives you option of sorting by date, so you can easily read the most recent research (but, be careful here, recent research is not always better research, each study should evaluated on its own terms). In addition, there is a link that shows how often, each paper is cited. If you click on the citation link it will produce a list of papers that have cited that work. This is very helpful because it allows you to see if other researchers have found similar results.

Primary research papers are often written in a technical language. But technical does not mean inpenetrable. With a little patience you can often follow the main thread of the argument and evaluate how well the evidence supports that argument.

One the central goals of modern education needs to be the creation of informed consumers of research.


4 Responses to “Using Google Scholar”

  1. Bruce Wayne July 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    It would be awesome if you could expand on this. A follow up article on how-to read scientific papers for the layman, a survival guide of what you should and shouldn’t do and best how to make sense of it all.

    Just an idea. Love the site. Cheers

    • jecgenovese July 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

      Great suggestion, I’ll definitely do that.


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  2. On line misrepresentations of research findings | peakmemory - July 29, 2013

    […] not accept media reports about scientific findings on face value. When ever possible we should check the original papers to find out what the research actually […]

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