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BEE 3299: Sustainable Development: Google vs. Web of Science (and other library databases), what's the difference?

Navigating the Information Universe

 

Where do you get your Information?

Google
 
The Web can provide excellent starting places to do your research.

But if you are only using Google to find your information, you may not be finding all of the information that is available on your topic, especially for scholarly research.


Three very important facts to remember about information:

1.  Search Engines only retrieve a portion of the information available on the web. 

A lot of useful information is not freely available on the web. It is proprietary, meaning someone--an author, a publisher, or institution--owns the information.

 
2.  Not all digitized information is created equal. 
You need to critically analyze and evaluate the information you intend to use.
 
3.  Not all information has been digitized 
There are still books in the Library. And other print and analog resources that do not exist on the Web.

Using Web of Science

Need to find highly cited scholarly articles on nearly any topic? Try searching Web of Science, an important and useful multidisciplinary scholarly database. See the tutorial!

Web of Science

Google vs. Web of Science

    GOOGLE SCHOLAR                                                               WEB OF SCIENCE

Multi-disciplinary (pro and con). Not just journal articles (books, patents, dissertations, other material).

Web of Science is interdisciplinary and covers all scientific areas, but it only covers what it considers to "best" journals and concentrates on English language ones. 

Search engine of the whole internet which narrows the internet results based on machine automated criteria. Criteria for inclusion as "scholarly"  in Google Scholar results is based on publishers submitting information to Google Scholar about their web sites, and is not necessarily based on the attributes of the sources themselves. 

Human- curated database. Journals are the focus, and they are selected for inclusion based on scholarly criteria by literature review committees.   Web of Science journal selection is explained.  

Not necessarily peer-reviewed

Mostly peer-reviewed, scholarly literature

Searches some full-text: you can find information that is not necessarily in the citation or abstract of an article, for instance, a detail buried in the Methods section of a journal article.  If you're not having luck finding something extremely specific with Web of Science search, try Google Scholar

 Web of Science is limited to abstract and title searching, but that is not necessarily bad for most searches. If you want an article that is primarily about a specific topic, certainly the information will be in the abstract. 

Inaccurate retrieval and variable content means that search results are not necessarily reproducible and therefore not reportable.  They would not be appropriate for systematic reviews. 

Accurate retrieval means that search results are reproducible and reportable (especially important for systematic reviews)

Google-like search interface.

More control over your search, with advanced search options.

Track citations Track citations, though considered more accurate than Google
Google Scholar retrieves article information from thousands of different sites, so information about author, date, journal name, and other pieces of the citation is not standardized and may or may not be machine-readable by Google. Google Scholar offers an author, date or journal name search, but its accuracy varies greatly.   Results cannot be sorted reliably by date. 

Data about each article is entered into the database in a uniform structured way:  author, title, date, journal name.  This means you get accurate retrieval when searching for those things.  Results can be sorted reliably by latest date.

No human-curation means no tagging of articles for structure or content.  If you want review articles, you can add the word "review" to your Google Scholar search, but as a keyword.  This means you may or may not get real review articles. 

Articles in Web of Science are tagged with important information about their structure, such as "review article".

 

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