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Planetary Sciences: From Solar System Worlds to the Exoplanet Expanses: Open Web Resources

This research guide combines information resources and guidance about using them from astronomy and the geosciences, with the goal of being a one-stop place for Yale researchers.

Government Research Programs

Google Scholar: Its Strengths and Weaknesses

Google Scholar has many benefits to using it. First, it contains a lot of information — nobody knows how large its index is — and second, you can find things beyond Yale's collections, including a lot of gray literature that hasn't been published in a journal or as a scholarly book.

However, there are some pitfalls. The first pitfall is its inclusion of fake journals, which are scam publications that do not do real peer review and typically ask authors to pay vanity fees to publish. It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes between an up-and-coming journal and something that is a scam, and it really all comes down to whether or not peer review was done properly. The second pitfall is bad metadata, or scraping errors. Almost all of what is in Google Scholar is curated by web crawlers that harvest information. They sometimes make embarrassing errors, like misidentifying dates or applying incorrect author information based on something in a sidebar. If a journal website changes and something happens in its metadata, Google Scholar will reindex it without titles or other important information, and it will take 9-12 months to fix because there is no manual intervention. So be careful!

Beyond that, here are some important things to be aware of.

  1. Word order matters. Try a search in Google Scholar for apple stem and another for stem apple, each in a different tab. The results appear in a different order — and some things are included or omitted — because all Google search products expect that you will type words in (roughly) ordinary sentence order. This is really unexpected for those of us who tack terms onto the end of our search when we don't see what we want!
  2. Put phrases in quotation marks, or even individual words. Putting quotation marks around a single word will prevent Google from stemming the word. fuse will match fuse, fuses, fusing, fused, but "fuse" will match only fuse. Searching as a phrase, "chaos terrain", will make sure that the words in the phrase are treated as a unit.
  3. You can search for number ranges. Try 1990..1999 or 100..200. Importantly, this is not a date lookup function. Adding a range of four-digit numbers will find dates, but it will also find any other four-digit numbers.
  4. There are ways to account for terminology variation. Often, we are looking up terms that may have changed in the past. One example is exoplanet vs. extrasolar planet — the first is the currently-used term, and the second is the common term before 2008 or so. To search, you'd do the following: exoplanet OR "extrasolar planet" OR "extrasolar planets" — and please note that, as things in quotation marks don't get stemmed, we have to search for both the singular and the plural. 
  5. You can subtract things from your search. Do that in Google Scholar with a minus sign attached to a word or phrase, like "fluid inclusions" -Mars or "fluid inclusions" -"Galilaei Crater".
  6. Authors have an operator, too. Sometimes you will even find an author profile for the person you are looking up where you can view all of their publications. For example, "fluid inclusions" author:"benison, k".

Institutional Repositories and Open Data