Using Google scholar more effectively

Living in the internet age can be both blessing and curse. On the one hand, we have access to far more resources than any previous generation. I can’t even begin to understand what research must have been like forty or fifty years ago. How did they find anything? On the other hand, we have access to far more resources than any previous generation. With all of this data, how in the world do we find anything?

Fortunately, you can harness some of the blessing and minimize some of the curse by mastering good search techniques. Thanks to Lifehacker, here is a tip on searching more effectively with Google Scholar. I realize that this search is a little complicated, but I can see a number of ways in which it could be quite useful.  And, by the way, if you’re not using Google Scholar in your research, you should be. It’s not always the best tool out there, but it is definitely one of the tools you want in your toolbox.

Google Scholar is an extremely useful academic tool. One great thing about it is, after running a search, you can click on “Cited by” beneath a result and it will then return a list of all sources that cite that article or book. The new result is itself sorted by citation count, which is usually a useful metric for determining relevance. However there’s a problem—you can’t search through these results using additional terms! If you enter new terms into the search box and hit enter, it forgets what you were doing and starts over.

Here’s how to get around this oversight. First, click on the “Cited by” link beneath the article you’re interested in. Then, on the resulting page, look at the URL. It should be something like “http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=15426054345747611141&hl=en&as_sdt=800000″—which is all articles that cite Pinker’s “Blank Slate.” Select and copy this portion of the portion of the URL, “cites=15426054345747611141”. Now do a new search, let’s say just for “Dennett.” In the URL for this results page, add “&” to the end and paste the portion of the previous URL you copied. The URL should now read, “http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=dennett&hl=en&btnG=Search&as_sdt=800001&as_sdtp=on&cites=15426054345747611141”. Finally, hit enter (from the address bar, not the search box), and the new search should come up—this will be all articles/books that cite Pinker’s “Blank Slate” *and* contain the word “Dennett” somewhere in them.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 12, 2010, in Th.M. Program and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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