We’ve long followed Google’s evolving toolset, whether to ponder philosophical points about digital text or learn practical lessons for developing our own research tools… or just for fun.

Here is a quick roundup of some recent Google developments that might aid the research blogger, with helpful instructions and tips:

  • Google Books: Full-text downloads
  • Google News: History
  • Google Scholar: Library integration, citation export

Google Books: Full-text downloads

Recently Google announced full-text downloads of select public domain works from Google Books. (The great reaction on GrokLaw: Ah! Google Books! Ah!) In order to search only downloadable works, select the “Full view” radio button - although some results are still (inexplicably) not downloadable, even when long out of copyright.

The main difference between Google Books downloads and Project Guttenberg, the premiere public domain text downloading service, is that Project Gutenberg focuses on carefully edited plain text transcriptions, produced in part by its volunteer army at Distributed Proofreaders. Google Books, on the other hand, focuses on OCR scans of pages, and its downloads are PDF documents.

In many cases, these two approaches are complimentary. For example, Edwin Abbott’s thought-provoking allegory of multi-dimensional spaces “Flatland, by A. Square” (1884) is available from both (PG) (GB). Part of the interest of Flatland is the strange sketches of the perspective of 2- and 1-dimensional creatures - if I want to consult them, I’ll need to use Google Books. I can download a PDF with all the images in it, and look at for example some often-remarked depictions of women in various dimensional cultures. What I can’t do, however, is then search that PDF for the word women - the OCR data is not included. If I want to datamine the book (or excerpt large passages, or mark it up, or mash it up, etc.) I’m either stuck at the Google search interface or I need to go Project Gutenberg and download their full text version - which is amenable to all those things. Between the two, anything is possible.

Google News: History

Via Ken Cousins at Augmentation:

This is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen today. Google has been hard at work with the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, the Guardian, and others to produce the Google News Archive.

Punch in a search term, and you get archived news stories from participating media outlets. You can then narrow in on a specific historical period, or view results as a timeline.

If you are already a Google News user it is important to understand that the “Archive Search” feature is not tightly integrated with Google News right now - only a small link on the top of the News homepage, and you can’t switch from a news results page into the archive.

Once you do find the archive and start using it, however, you’ll get the most out of it as soon as you click the small “show timeline” link in the upper right. This organizes results in chronological layers with a few representative results from each time period. You can click on any layer (e.g. 1980’s) to drill down into it and expand the results. As usual, Google offers advanced search features by date, publication, etc. Many of the results are available for sale only. On the other hand, Google even lets you restrict search results by price.

Google Scholar: Library integration, citation export

If you use a citation manager or have access intranet/proxy access to a university library, you need to customize Google Scholar.

Despite being a longtime fan of the service, I didn’t even realize it had preferences until Julian at Particle Stream pointed them out.

From the homepage, select Scholar preferences. Under “Bibliography Manager” select “Show links to import citations” and then choose a style. EndNote will work for many software packages, though open culture advocates may feel happier using BibTeX.

While you are here - do you have a library system on your intranet or proxy that you would like to integrate into your search results? For example, I regularly use the UCSB library system. To add it, I went to “Library Links” on the preferences page and typed “UC Santa Barbara”, then clicked “Find Library.” The page may not even appear to refresh, but (if found) a result will now be listed immediately below the input box. Select the checkbox next to your library result. After you are all done, don’t forget to go to the bottom of the page and hit “Save Preferences.” Your Google Scholar results are now supercharged!

4 Responses to “Research Blogging with Google”

  1. 1 Mark Marino

    Excellent set of research and discussions. We should add this page to our “Pedagogy and Scholarship” resources!

  2. 2 Christy Dena

    Clusty offers a Shakespeare Search that I find interesting too. You can search characters, terms, works and so one. I’d like to see this as part of some search game.

    Clusty is my preferred search engine. I do use Google for some searches (comparative) though but Google Images, Google Video and Personalised Google I use quite alot.

  3. 3 Jeremy Douglass

    Thanks for the Clusty recommendation - I’ve been trying it out, and it is remarkably satisfying.

    An alternative to Google Scholar:

    Windows Live Academic Search

    It has some limitations - a heavier interface, only works in IE/Firefox, and draws on far far fewer sources (and those mostly in computers and the hard sciences). However the results interface with presentation of abstracts is quite nice, and for those of us in digital media, the index of all the ACM journals alone will bring up a lot of satisfying results.

    There is a good CNET review of Live Academic Search with an evenhanded evaluation of strengths and weaknesses. No explanation of the ridiculous branding that extends the tag “Windows” name to a search portal.

  4. 4 Christy Dena

    That Windows Live is interesting. Thanks!

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