Why You Should Use Google Scholar for Research

If you dont have access to library databases at home, you should definitely start your research using Google Scholar. To describe Google Scholar as simply a website that archives and organizes online journal articles would be an understatement.

Google Scholar not only lets you search for articles by search terms (like every other journal database), but it provides you with great search features like:

Related Articles Link
Most every article listed within Google Scholar has a related articleslink. The related articles link expands on articles not cited within the article itself, and can provide you with a long list of scholarly journal articles you might not have thought about checking out. You can spend hours just clicking through the related links of the journal articles youre interested in.

Cited By Link
Another great tool on Google Scholar is the Cited by __ link. This nifty link will give you set of online journal articles that cite the article youre interested in. So the articles with more citations should give you an idea of the articles importance within your research topic
. Its a great tool to quickly find articles most referenced in other journals, which means you might want to consider reading and citing those highly referenced articles too.

There are many other advanced search features and scholar preference searches, so go check it out.

How to Write Abstracts

Ive been very busy these last few weeks working on a lengthy research proposal.

Its been absolutely exhausting – but it feels good to almost be done.

The last step in any research proposal is to write a comprehensive summary (or abstract) about what youre about to propose.

This might sound easy, but I find that this is sometimes the most difficult part.

How do you condense all your research into a brief paragraph?

It can be mind-boggling I know.

After spending some time researching abstract development, I found these helpful tips for writing the perfect abstract:

Abstract Style

  • One paragraph under 150 – 200 words
  • Use related keywords that people might use to find your article
  • As a summary of work done, it is always written in past tense
  • An abstract should stand on its own, and not refer to any other part of the paper such as a figure or table
  • Focus on summarizing results – limit background information
  • What you report in an abstract must be consistent with what you report
  • Correct spelling, clarity of sentences and phrases, and proper reporting of quantities (proper units, significant figures) are just as important in an abstract as they are anywhere else

Abstract Content

  • Motivation – Why do we care about the problem and the results?
  • Problem Statement – What problem are you trying to solve? What is the scope of your work (a generalized approach, or for a specific situation)? Be careful not to use too much jargon. In some cases it is appropriate to put the problem statement before the motivation, but usually this only works if most readers already understand why the problem is important.
  • Approach – How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem? What important variables did you control, ignore, or measure?
  • Results – Whats the answer? Put the result there, in numbers. Avoid vague, hand-waving results such as very, small, or significant.
  • Conclusions – What are the implications of your answer? Is it going to change the world (unlikely), be a significant win, be a nice hack, or simply serve as a road sign indicating that this path is a waste of time (all of the previous results are useful). Are your results general, potentially generalizable, or specific to a particular case?

Read more about writing abstracts here . . .

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5 Online Libraries You Should Know About

Here are five great online resources that can help you research prior to writing your next paper. These online resources can help you save time, and can really help if you don’t have time to visit a library.

Google Scholar
The advanced features on Google Scholar can help you quickly narrow down and research your topic of interest. Google scholar provides you a rich database of research material available on the web. Though much of the content requires passwords to view full journal articles, you can still view abstracts for free.

E-Research – Harvard University
This research site will provide you with a list of journal articles and online references for whatever topic you’re interested in. Though this site was built for Harvard students, you can still access and use the site without a student ID. Simply click on the “show unrestricted” button to get access to free content.

LibrarySpot.com
Library Spot can provide you with online encyclopedias, dictionaries, journal articles, and other important reference materials. The website can seem overwhelming at first because of the amount of information available, but it’s definitely a great place to start for general research.

WorldCat.org
WorldCat.org can provide you with a laundry list of books and articles to reference for whatever topic you’re interested in. It’s sort of like going to the largest library you could imagine. It’s all there for you to sort through to find the books that might help you for your paper. The only problem is that it doesn’t provide any abstracts for the books you want to know more about.

Encyclopedia.com
This site is valuable because it provides links to tons of great online encyclopedias. Just type in a term and you’ll find dozens of definitions and information about that topic–with links going to the various online encyclopedias. The only problem with this site is that it’s cluttered with ads.

These five online libraries will help you with your research.

How to Hack Google Scholar to Get Search Results by Email or RSS

Im in love with aggregator sites like Yahoo Pipes and Dapper.com.

These nifty mash-up tools allow you to hack feeds and/or search results to get the information you want as a filtered RSS feed, XML, email, or website widget.

And whats great is that student hackers have created helpful feeds to help you research smarter without doing any work.

Here are some of my favorite filters that will email results to you:

Let me know of any others that you like so I can add them to the list.

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