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SWON News: Future of Libraries

Rigorous Study Compares Google Scholar Results vs. Pubmed in Clinical Nephrology Literature

Thursday, May 1, 2014  
Posted by: Melanie
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Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

In her recent Evidence Summary*, Diana Wakimoto reviews "Retrieving clinical evidence: A comparison of PubMed and Google Scholar for quick clinical searches."** In her summary, Ms. Wakimoto characterizes the study as rigorous and significant to medical librarians and to possibly other librarians as well. What the authors found was that, "Google Scholar provides better recall and provides more access to full-text than PubMed..." As someone who used to perform hundreds of detailed searches each year in Pubmed, I find this astonishing. It represents a sea-change in searching and sourcing articles in the medical field. O.K., so that sounds pretty important. But why should every librarian care about this article? Because, as we know and have known for a long time, many people would prefer to use Google and if they know about Google Scholar, they would prefer to search there. Not because they have more or better results, but because they can do it from home, without the cumbersome and time-consuming login gymnastics required by our for-profit full-text database providers. That's the 'bad news.' But wait, maybe it's just bad for those providers. Maybe for librarians it's great news because we may be able, without repercussions, to reduce our budget problems by cancelling some of those high-priced databases.

And there's other good news in this study for librarians. Let me give you more of the Conclusion, the first part of which I selectively quoted above.

"Google Scholar provides better recall and provides more access to full-text than PubMed; however, search strings provided by nephrologists used in both databases failed to retrieve 80% of relevant articles. Therefore improving nephrologists’ ability to effectively search could enhance their ability to implement research in practice helping patients."

This is my experience (and I was working with brilliant Drs., scientists/researchers). Our mission should not be to fight Google as I've heard advocated too often. Rather, we should utilize our expertise in helping those who are experts in their field, do better by instructing them in our area of expertise. Better yet, in my opinion, let them know what they know, and just support their research by running the searches for them. I know, pretty radical right?

*WAKIMOTO, Diana K.. Google Scholar Retrieves Twice as Many Relevant Citations as PubMed and Provides Greater Full-Text Access for Quick, Clinical Nephrology Searches. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 1, p. 36-38, mar. 2014. ISSN 1715-720X. Available at: . Date accessed: 30 Apr. 2014.

**Shariff, S. Z., Bejaimal, S. A. D., Sontrop, J. M., Iansavichus, A. V., Haynes, R. B., Weir, M. A., & Garg, A. X. (2013). Retrieving clinical evidence: A comparison of PubMed and Google Scholar for quick clinical searches. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(8). doi:10.2196/jmir.2624


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