Navigating the literature, part deux

This is a short one, but as I was going through a few things I realized I made a glaring omission in my listing of literature searching mechanisms: Google Scholar. I use it often enough, I should have remembered it :). Google Scholar is not without it’s flaws (and enough of them that PubMed is still _the_ premier search tool for me), but it can be useful. If you want to see a comparison between the two, there is a good article from PubMed Central doing a test search of both in the Journal of the Medical Library Association. Basic conclusion? Both are good, both have weaknesses.

I did a quick test search using “ncRNA,” my latest passing interest. Google Scholar found 1,500 records, PubMed found 155. Of course this is where the strengths and weaknesses show. Many, if not most, of the Google Scholar’s finds were useless to me if I were doing up-to-date research and needed to know quickly what the latest research was. Also, I couldn’t sort in Google Scholar by author, date, etc. It lists the find by ‘relevance,’ which in a over-simplified nutshell means ‘links to it’. That would seem to favor older articles and sites. But, I do like the list of authors at the side in Google Scholar, it gives me a quick way to see who might be the main researchers in the field. Also, I like the simple interface and quick view of who cited the paper. Still, I found PubMed better finding up-to-date peer-reviewed research.

On a related note, Google recently announced “Knol.” Kind of a way for an author to “publish” articles of any kind of “knowledge” and have them linked to, rated and viewed. It’s in beta (invited only) and seems to be a strange hybrid between a blog, wikipedia and an online magazine with a free-from kind-of peer review. Not sure how that will turn out.

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