Google announced a new change to Google Scholar to improve the results of a search. The results can now be ordered by a confluence of citations, date of publication, and keyword relevance, instead of just the latter. From the Official Google Blog:
It’s not just a plain sort by date, but rather we try to rank recent papers the way researchers do, by looking at the prominence of the author’s and journal’s previous papers, how many citations it already has, when it was written, and so on. Look for the new link on the upper right for “Recent articles” — or switch to “All articles” for the full list.
Another feature, which I wasn’t aware of, is the “group of X”, located just at the end of the line. It points to papers that are very similar in topic. Researchers can use this feature to delve deeper into a topic, as opposed to skipping across the surface of a topic. This reflects the deep user-centered thinking that went into the design of the results, which is broken down in more detail here.
Though many professors lament the use of Google as students first and last research resource, the continual improvements of Google Scholar and the Google Book project (when combined with access rights afforded by a university library) provide an increasingly potent research environment. Google Scholar, by displaying the citation count, provides a significant piece of secondary data that improves decision making dramatically compared to unguided topic searches in the library. By selecting uncredited quotations and searching for them in Google Book project, students can get information on the primary text, read a little of the additional context, and decide whether or not to procure the book from the library. I feel like I’m overselling Google, but my real point has nothing to do with any specific corporation. The real point is: in the future, all the value is in the network.