14 jul 2017

Suitability of Google Scholar as a source of scientific information and as a source of data for scientific evaluation. Review of the Literature

Studies comparing GS to controlled databases such as Scopus, Web of Science (WOS) and others have been published almost since GS inception. These studies focus on its coverage, quality and ability to replace controlled databases as a source of reliable scientific literature. In addition, GS introduction of citations tracking and journal metrics have spurred a body of literature focusing on its ability to produce reliable metrics. In this article we aimed to review some studies in these areas in an effort to provide insights into GS ability to replace controlled databases in various subject areas. We reviewed 91 comparative articles from 2005 until 2016 which compared GS to various databases and especially Web of Science (WOS) and Scopus in an effort to determine whether GS can be used as a suitable source of scientific information and as a source of data for scientific evaluation. Our results show that GS has significantly expanded its coverage through the years which makes it a powerful database of scholarly literature. However, the quality of resources indexed and overall policy still remains known. Caution should be exercised when relying on GS for citations and metrics mainly because it can be easily manipulated and its indexing quality still remains a challenge.

• Google Scholar is constantly expanding and includes publishers content as well as content not available in controlled databases.
• Google Scholar provides citations counts that are broader than those covered by controlled databases.
• Google Scholar should be used with controlled databases especially when clinical information retrieval is required.
• Google Scholar is challenging when advanced searching is required.
• Google Scholar does not support data downloads and therefore is difficult to use as a sole bibliometric source.
• Google Scholar lacks quality control and clear indexing guidelines.

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