Finding better ‘quality’ information on the internet

Let’s be clear – I am not suggesting that the myriad of opinion editorial pieces, lists of ten most amazing skin conditions, ten-step programmes to a better marriage, or photo-collages of the best dressed man’s daily sartorial selections, are NOT good quality. However, from time-to-time it is helpful to be able to know what is going on in one’s profession, that has been properly researched, peer-reviewed, copy-edited, and vetted for some degree of accuracy and intellectual rigour. Whether it is useful is far-harder to be sure of!

A few weeks ago, someone asked me to explain how you do a specialist search of the internet for academically more rigorous material, especially ‘latest news’. The answer is easy, Google Scholar gives you only results from sources that are considered to have been independently edited (eg books) or peer-reviewed. You access it just like any Google search but from this niche link;

Many of the results lead to the full article, or to an abstract that gives you all the information that you really need. Academic journals though, often only allow access to subscribers, but many institutions are now uploading copies of publications to their own site (especially as links from academic staff biographic pages), so when you find something that appears interesting, and you want more than the abstract, then a quick regular Google search for the title and publication may reveal the full article somewhere else (often on a or .edu site).

Google Scholar allows you to sort by date which you can then sort by date to get the very latest. You can remove citations and patents to thin the list and obviously refine your search terms as you would with any Google search.

You can create an alert which pings you an email either individually, daily or weekly, when new materials join the search results.

To avoid being distracted and to make it easier to find these email messages, I have a filter set on my gmail account to push any messages with “scholar alert” in the subject header into a category of that name and remove them from the inbox.

I realise that anyone with access to the usual academic library facilities can do far more sophisticated things, but those aren’t available to the vast majority of independent practitioners.

I hope this helps; personally, I use it for the core subjects that I teach and find that it regularly highlights interesting new material.

All the best, Graham

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