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Friday, 1 March 2013

Google and Google Scholar – Does it help or hinder postgraduate research?

  By: Lynne Phipson
The first sessions that I teach are normally the postgraduate sessions. Postgraduate students come from all walks of life and many different geographical areas. Some are full time, some part time, but generally without exception, have all used Google and Google Scholar for their research and studies.  
When one explains the many databases available at UKZN for their research, and the wealth of information contained in these databases, they are amazed.

How can we make our postgraduate students more aware of the need to attend Library training sessions and alert them to the fact the Google and Google Scholar is not enough?  

The University databases are an essential part of research. They contain thousands of journal articles with scientific, peer-reviewed, current research from experts in the different fields. Annual subscriptions for the electronic databases are a huge financial commitment for the Library every year. A priority for Subject Librarians on all campuses is ensuring that our users make the best possible use of these databases. Much of the scholarly information published is only found on the subscription databases. Students also miss out on full text access when they don’t search via the databases. 

This is not a unique problem to UKZN. I was going through the different subject guides on other university sites and came across a note on one of the subject pages at Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University, telling their users that they won’t find all their information on Google.  

Library user education is offered on all campuses at UKZN. We can only appeal to postgraduate students to make it a priority that they attend these sessions. Most postgraduate training is subject-specific but generic sessions are also offered, for example, some sessions are given through the Mastering of Masters Programme.   

I am concerned about the postgraduate student that slips through the net and somehow misses out on Library instruction. Some of these students arrive in my office towards the end of their literature search because a supervisor has pointed out missing key references and information. Invariably the problem is that only Google and Google Scholar has been used! 

Summing up:
·         Library: The Library has a responsibility to market, organise and encourage users to attend Library training and to communicate the times and dates of upcoming sessions. Consultation with academic staff is a vital part of this process. Library training in reference managers like Endnote and Refworks is also available.
·         Postgraduates: Postgraduate students need to understand their responsibility and  need for Library training. Attendance at Library training should be prioritized. Google and Google Scholar are not enough!
·         Academic staff: Support from Academic staff is essential for the Library. Without the support of staff, it is very difficult to organise sessions and ensure attendance by students.

Do Google and Google Scholar help or hinder postgraduate research? What do you think?

 Reference: Andrews, C. (2012). Where do you get your information? Retrieved 30 January 2012, from http://guides.library.cornell.edu/content.php?pid=146220&sid=1242694

1 comment:

  1. It is important to differentiate between Google and Google Scholar. The latter is a useful discovery tool which searches scholarly sources and journals across web. Google Scholar identifies UKZN journal subscriptions by the words "UKZN e-text" next to the title of each article that you have access to. Clicking on the UKZN link takes you to the article in the original journal homepage or journal database.

    For a more comprehensive description, see "What is Google Scholar?" at http://lane.stanford.edu/help/literature-searching/google-scholar.html