Navigating the Information Universe


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 Web of Science tutorial!

Web of Science basic search screen

Google vs. Web of Science

Google Scholar

  • Search engine of the whole internet which narrows the internet results based on machine automated criteria. 
  • Multi-disciplinary (pro and con)
  • Google-like search interface
  • 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
  • Not just journal articles (books, patents, dissertations, other material)
  • Not necessarily peer-reviewed
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

Web of Science

  • Human-curated database
  • Journals are the focus of Web of Science, and they are selected for inclusion by humans based on scholarly criteria by literature review committees. Web of Science journal selection is explained.
  • 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. 
  • Mostly peer-reviewed, scholarly literature
  • More control over your search
  • 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.
  • Articles in Web of Science are tagged with important information about their structure, such as "review article".
  • Accurate retrieval means that search results are reproducible and reportable (especially important for systematic reviews)