April 19, 2012
Meet Microsoft Academic Search, Redmond's Quiet Answer to Google Scholar
Did anyone know that Microsoft has an alternative to Google Scholar? I didn’t either until I stumbled across it a little while back. Welcome to Microsoft Academic Search. As of today, it invites one to explore 38,835,423 publications, 19,159,815 authors with 1,587 updates from last week alone. That, out of context, sounds impressive. Search the phrase “critical race theory” in MS Academic Search and a very well laid out screen returns a list of 178 publications. A comparable Google Scholar search brings up 19,400 hits, not that I as a researcher would explore so many. One of the reasons Microsoft lags in results is that it does not index legal publications much. The site boasts a list of domains which are information subject concentrations. Social science exists but law or legal is not covered.
The citation list in MS Academic Search brings up hits with links to a source for the article, if available. The initial list does not provide any snippet views of the article content. However, clicking on the title will lead to a graphical view of citations, where available, and a snippet view of citations to the main article. The graph indicates the yearly citation trend in lines covering the number of citing publications and the number of citations to the main article. The listed citations below the graph are clickable to reveal abstracts of these citing articles with links to full text, again, where available. There is an export button allowing one to download an article citation in a standard bibliographic format as well.
I can’t say that MS Academic Search is less valuable than Google Scholar merely in terms of the comparable number of citations returned. I think Google Scholar’s real advantage is that the snippet view of search terms on the initial screens is more useful in determining whether a hit is worth exploring. Microsoft seems to rely strictly on the title as a signal for relevancy. On the other hand, the interactive qualities of the site run rings around what Google provides in its take it or leave it display of results.
I’d advise checking out the site. The help screen gives a lot of detail as to the capabilities of Academic Search. The site has been around since December of 2009, which shows the non-existent marketing push Microsoft has made promoting it. Google could learn a thing or two from the presentation and manipulation of results. The lack of legal periodical coverage is a distinct disadvantage for law reference work. It may still have value as a resource nonetheless. Microsoft did blatantly copy one Google feature. The site is listed as “Beta.” [MG]
Even a quick five-minute look shows that just as for Google Scholar, "publications" primarily means "publications in science, technology, and medicine" journals, not social sciences/law or arts/humanities. [From MG: Google Scholar indexes the full text of Hein Online and SSRN, arguably giving it substantial coverage of legal commentary.]
Posted by: Mikhail Koulikov | Apr 20, 2012 11:58:40 AM