Google Scholar as a data source for research assessment

Authors : Emilio Delgado López-Cózar, Enrique Orduna-Malea, Alberto Martín-Martín

The launch of Google Scholar (GS) marked the beginning of a revolution in the scientific information market. This search engine, unlike traditional databases, automatically indexes information from the academic web. Its ease of use, together with its wide coverage and fast indexing speed, have made it the first tool most scientists currently turn to when they need to carry out a literature search.

Additionally, the fact that its search results were accompanied from the beginning by citation counts, as well as the later development of secondary products which leverage this citation data (such as Google Scholar Metrics and Google Scholar Citations), made many scientists wonder about its potential as a source of data for bibliometric analyses.

The goal of this chapter is to lay the foundations for the use of GS as a supplementary source (and in some disciplines, arguably the best alternative) for scientific evaluation.

First, we present a general overview of how GS works. Second, we present empirical evidences about its main characteristics (size, coverage, and growth rate). Third, we carry out a systematic analysis of the main limitations this search engine presents as a tool for the evaluation of scientific performance.

Lastly, we discuss the main differences between GS and other more traditional bibliographic databases in light of the correlations found between their citation data. We conclude that Google Scholar presents a broader view of the academic world because it has brought to light a great amount of sources that were not previously visible.


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