How reliable is Google Scholar?

A few days ago someone asked me, “How reliable is Google Scholar (GS)? How can a scholar have 1000s of citations on GS but only a few hundreds citations on Web of Science?”

This is a very valid question and here is what I think about it;

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. In a single place, You can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books and abstracts etc from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

Google scholar also provides researchers an option of creating their own profile. A Google Scholar profile is a very simple way of collating your publications (and citations to them) so that others can find your work and often find an accessible copy that they can read.

It’s difficult to say if Google Scholar Profile is Amazing or if it’s not worth at all. Just like anything else, google scholar comes with some advantages as well as disadvantages, in comparison to other indexing services such as Web of Science and Scopus etc.

1. Google Scholar is more up to date and includes many articles that have not yet been indexed by WoS or Scopus, including “in press” articles that have been published online but have not yet been assigned issue and page numbers.

2. Google Scholar is more comprehensive, including citations from and citations to technical reports and other scholarly grey literature. This can be a good thing if you want to measure the total impact of the work.

3. Google Scholar profiles seem to be easier to keep up to date than other profiles such as ReserachGate, Academia, ReseracherID etc.

Some of the Disadvantages include;
1. Some of the work included in Google Scholar is not peer-reviewed and has been less rigorously scrutinised than the peer-reviewed sources included in Web of Science and Scopus.

2. It is possible for unethical academics to “game” Google Scholar citation counts. This is done normally by adding publications done by other authors with similar surnames to their profile, increasing their citation count.

3. Most people realise that Google Scholar citation counts tend to be higher, and some therefore view them with more skepticism than WoS or Scopus citation counts.

To conclude, google scholar is a useful tool and can (should) be used. This holds true to keep track of research productivity for scholars, specially because of increased competition. However, it’s extremely important to be ethical. At times, google scholar add things to profile automatically. In that case, scholars should always keep track of their profiles and make sure it only includes the work done by them.

I hope this helps.

In the end, I would urge you to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

This is an original post by Dr. Faizan Ali, Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

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