Google and the scholar: the role of Google in scientists' information-seeking behaviour.

Online Information Review (Impact Factor: 1.44). 04/2010; 34(2):282-294. DOI: 10.1108/14684521011036990
Source: DBLP

ABSTRACT Purpose – This paper aims to demonstrate the role that the Google general search engine plays in the
information-seeking behaviour of scientists, particularly physicists and astronomers.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a mixed-methods study including 56
semi-structured interviews, a questionnaire survey of 114 respondents (47 per cent response rate) and
the use of information-event cards to collect critical incident data. The study was conducted at the
Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College, London.
Findings – The results show that Google is the tool most used for problem-specific information
seeking. The results also show the growing reliance of scientists on general search engines,
particularly Google, for finding scholarly articles. Initially, finding scholarly articles was a by-product
of general searching for information rather than focused searches for papers. However, a growing
number of articles read by scientists are identified through the Google general search engine and, as
scientists are becoming more aware of the quantity of scholarly papers searchable by Google, they are
increasingly relying on Google for finding scholarly literature.
Research limitations/implications – As the only fields covered in the study were physics and
astronomy, and the research participants were sourced from just one department of one institution,
caution should be taken in generalising the findings.
Originality/value – The data are based on a mixed-methods in-depth study of scientists’
information-seeking behaviour which sheds some light on a question raised in past studies relating to
the reason for the high number of articles identified through Google.

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