Monday, 10th May 2010
They're Here! E-Mail Alerts for Google Scholar Now Available Direct from Google
Until now, Google Scholar users had to use a variety of methods to create alerts to notify them of new content in Google Scholar. Well, the wait is over and as of this weekend, Google Scholar E-Mail Alerts are now available. It's Google, of course they're free.
NOTE: This post was updated at 10 P.M. on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 after ResourceShelf chatted with Anurag Acharya, the founding engineer of Google Scholar.
1. For a "simple" alert, just run a Google Scholar search, click the search button, and get your results.
2. Click the "Envelope" icon (top left side of the page). Here, you can make changes, if needed, click "update" button and a sample of results using 2010 results with the modified search query appear below. When you're set after deciding the amount you want returned, click "Create Alert." You're then taken to your page of "Google Scholar" Alert page. If you want to modify the alert at this point, you'll need to click the cancel button and begin again.
3. Alerts appear to work with all three content options:
A) "Traditional" Google Scholar Content (with patents or without patents)
B) Legal Documents and Journals
4. For advanced Google searchers, most advanced syntax should also work in Google Scholar. The same goes for legal materials and patents. However, date limits do not work. We're still trying to figure out a search limiting to only patent applications or awarded patents.
However, if you or those you're working with aren't syntax users or just want to try something different, Google Scholar alerts created by using a more complex query can also be created using the advanced search interface.
Because alerts are to find new material (independent of publication date) that has just "entered" the database, the date range limits do not work.
You can't create an alert for only a source (at least at this time. For example, only send alerts for new entries from "The Journal of X" a no go. Anurag Acharya told us that part of the challenge in offering this feature is that Google is that a "large portion" of the Google Scholar database is built by crawling the open web and, "automated identification of articles and extraction of metadata." Of course, others have written about major issues they have with metadata and automated identification particularly when it comes to using Google Scholar as a tool for citation counts.
5) Alerts limited by an authors name or part of a name and prebuilt "collections" (look for them on the advanced search page) appear to work correctly. Btw, Google Scholar names (with or without an alert) do not have to be inverted and as an example, these are all variants of the same name: "m cutts'" or "matt cutts" or "matthew cutts." However, if you do get a significant number of false drops due to name issues, it's probably time to build a new query.
6) One of the great Google "only" blogs (an essential read ) is Google Operating System. There we read that Google Scholar alerts will do automatic query modification.
Google Scholar's email alerts feature is special because Google changes your to get better results (for example, [statistical speech recognition] has been changed to [statistical intitle:"speech recognition"]
Dr. Acharya offers a bit more explanation about what he calls "query suggestion."
First things first, what we present is a query suggestion. The user can modify the suggestion or revert it. To facilitate this, we provide a preview of results from the current year. So that the user can see how well the query matches recently published articles. [We noted this at the beginning of the post.] Our goal here is to help users bridge the gap between finding key/important articles in a large collection (as they are doing when they search Google Scholar) and finding relevant articles in the much smaller collection of recently published articles (as they would be doing with alerts). Queries that work well for finding key articles in large collections may or may not work as well for finding relevant recently published articles. What we try to do is to help the user craft a query that would achieve this.
Google doesn't talk about how query modification works (no surprise) but user intent (as one might expect) is part of the mix.
What About New Citations To Papers You're Interested In?
Our friend and info pro colleague, Garrett Eastman (the person who also brought this new feature to our attention) pointed us to a blog named, "A Computer Scientist in a Business School." Along with several screenshots (Google Operating System has some as well), we not only get another look at how to create a basic alert but also how to create alerts to be notified of new citations to specific articles. If it wasn't for this A Computer Scientist In A Business School blog post, we really wouldn't know citation alerts existed and be spending lots of time trying to see if it did. Kudos to the blogs author, Panos Ipeirotis.
To be alerted to new cites of a specific paper:
1) Find the paper(s) you want an alert for in the Google Scholar database.
2) Included next to each result on a results page is the text "cited by xx." Click that text. Now, simply click the envelope at the top of the page, decide on how many results you want (10 or 20) and your alert should be created.
A Couple of Other Notes
We wouldn't be surprised if RSS and/or Twitter and/or Facebook became another ways of disseminating alerts but first Google wants to determine interest in the email reviews
From what we can tell, you can only send alerts to your Gmail account.
UPDATE: What we wrote above is incorrect.
Acharya, told ResourceShelf that ANY email address can be used for delivery of a Google Scholar alerts. Here's how it works.
Make sure you're logged out of your Google account (if you have one). Compose the query you want to be alerted about and press the "create" button. At this point, your alert query along with an EMPTY e-mail box will appear. Enter the address where you would like the alert to be sent. In a matter of minutes (if not sooner) you'll receive an email asking you to confirm the address. Confirm by clicking the link in the confirmation e-mail. Now, the alert should arrive in the inbox you've selected. If done this way, you will be sent an email verification for each alert.
Yes, it's a bit of a pain but it's also the "balance" between ease of use and the creation of problems by malicious users. Ah, life on the Internet. Finally, to be clear, supplying an email address here is NOT the same thing as registering for a Google account.
It's also not a problem to send an alert(s) to a friend or colleague. However, make sure to let them know about it/them because they'll be sent one or more verification emails that they'll have to confirm.
Now, after many years alerts are here. The next thing Google Scholar should provide (we’ve been asking them since day one) is a directory of the journals indexed in the GS database. If a traditional vendor did not provide one of these when asked, they would likely be told, “we’re not interested in working with you.” When we asked this question of Dr. Acharya he pointed us to this 2006 interview. This is not the last we'll discuss this topic here but we are going to put it away for today. Btw, another question worth asking (and maybe more interesting to more people) to someone at Google is, "What happened to the Google Librarian Central web site and its newsletter?" The last time GLC received an update was about 22 months ago. The last newsletter over a year ago.
If what you or the person you're working with is interested in simply learning what's available in a new issue of a specific journal for each issue, and since you can't limit a Google Scholar search to only deliver new articles from a specific publication, the free JournalTocs service offers tables of contents. It's one of the most useful services on the Internet and the fact that it's free makes it only better.
Finally, don't forget (even those of you who access databases via your local library) that most database vendors offer email and/or RSS alert services including the two primary citation databases, Web of Knowledge/Science and Scopus. In some cases, if an aggregator gets an issue early by a day or or longer you might learn what's in it and read the abstracts, tables of contents before the journal arrives in the mail or appears on newsstands since most of these databases are updated daily if not continuously. We really don't know how often (daily, weekly, monthly?) Google Scholar is updated with new material.
Sources: Google, Garrett Eastman, Google Operating System, and A Computer Scientist in a Business School