Where do you seek data for research papers or class projects? If you’re like many college students, the research process begins and ends with Google.
You’re certainly not alone. Google has dominated the market for two decades, and for good reason: It’s notoriously easy to use. Unfortunately, ease of use doesn’t imply accuracy—and as a college student operating within a vast digital landscape, you need to feel confident that every resource you utilize is reputable.
Thankfully, Google represents just one of many available resources. Several academic search engines offer targeted results and access to the most relevant journals, citations, and other resources. These websites can transform the otherwise arduous process of gathering data.
As you embark on your next big paper or project, don’t hesitate to check out one or more of these scholarly search engines:
1. Google Scholar
You love everything about Google—especially its intuitive design and pages upon pages of results. But have you stopped to consider whether the information you find there is accurate? While the search engine’s current algorithm purports to emphasize quality over keyword stuffing and other metrics, you are by no means guaranteed results worthy of inclusion in your next term paper.
Enter Google Scholar. This targeted search engine offers instant access to a variety of academic resources. Its process looks virtually identical to the typical Google keyword search. The results, however, deliver relevant studies from prominent journals and other reliable resources. While this shouldn’t be your exclusive source of academic information, it can provide an excellent jumping-off point.
2. Microsoft Academic
A top alternative to Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic relaunched in 2016 following a disappointing run that petered out in 2012. Thankfully, the 2.0 version offers excellent results while optimizing the search process. This resource utilizes a concept known as semantic search to take the actual meaning of words and phrases into account rather than relying exclusively on keywords.
Microsoft Academic identifies many elements of search queries as ‘entities,’ which represent top concepts for organizing data. Top examples include:
These entities are accompanied by easy-to-identify icons which help users determine the relevance of search results. In general, this resource is an ideal option for spanning the divide between conventional search engine and targeted research site.
3. Educational Resources Information Center
A top resource for aspiring teachers and other professionals, the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) boasts a massive database containing over 1.3 million bibliographic records such as abstracts and citations. Some of these date back to the 1960s. Resources from peer-reviewed journals dominate the digital collection, but ERIC also provides access to a variety of non-journal documents. Examples include:
- Conference presentations
- Reports for federal or state standards
- Working papers from policy organizations
- Congressional hearings
Sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, this resource has long held high esteem among educational professionals, who consistently turn to it for accurate insights.
Trusted by over 16 million researchers, this top search engine currently provides results from over 135 million publications. The site was founded in 2008 by two physicians and a computer scientist. Since then, it has exploded as both a social network and a leading source of academic information.
Described by the New York Times as a mashup of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, ResearchGate encourages users to connect with those who express interest in similar fields. The site is currently dominated by users seeking and providing information on biology and medicine. It also includes notable niches in computer science, engineering, and psychology.
5. Bielefeld Academic Search Engine
Operated by the Bielefeld University Library, the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) draws from over 7,000 sources to provide users access to over 150 million documents. Paid subscriptions provide the greatest value, but open access users can still look to the academic search engine for journals, digital collections, and more.
The BASE approach emphasizes quality over quantity. Yes, you may find more results elsewhere, but with BASE, you can take solace in knowing that all sources are checked by qualified personnel to ensure full accuracy. This should be your go-to resource if you want to feel 100 percent confident in any data you encounter while searching the internet. Elsewhere, you may find it more difficult to verify source validity.
6. COnnecting REpositories
The Knowledge Media Institute’s COnnecting REpositories (CORE) aims to aggregate open access content currently distributed across a variety of journals and repositories. Created in 2011, the original edition addressed concerns related to text mining for large collections of academic material. Since then, the service has expanded to feature over 45 terabytes of textual data. This includes hundreds of millions of research papers aggregated from nearly 10,000 data providers in 145 countries. Users can access CORE’s information free of charge.
7. Semantic Scholar
Drawing on the power of artificial intelligence concepts such as natural language processing and machine learning, Semantic Scholar strives to up the ante for academic research sites. This AI-driven resource pulls information from over 184 million scientific papers. This information is then linked to provide users a comprehensive take on a variety of cutting-edge topics.
While many of Semantic Scholar’s features provide clear value for today’s students, the topic pages offer an especially valuable start. There, users can review key definitions and discover trends in coverage for specific subjects.
The influential individuals behind Semantic Scholar (including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and AI expert Dr. Oren Etzioni) believe that the vast collection of currently available literature could hold the key to groundbreaking discoveries—and that advanced search technology can connect the dots to deliver findings that might otherwise be missed.
Given the sheer scope of scholarly research sites, there is no excuse for relying on your typical sources of information. No matter the topic, you can look to today’s top research search engines to deliver the relevant and reputable data needed to take your paper to the next level.