April 11, 2014
I previously wrote a bit about finding open access, scientific content, which is important for scientists during their entire research process. Nevertheless, when researchers are ready to publish their work, they take particular interest in what steps should be taken to get their work discovered by others. Applying Search Engine Optimization techniques is the first thing recommended, but other and more basic problems surround the process of getting indexed by popular databases and search engines. The solution is not obvious since there are a significant number of searching services that are popular among researchers. Tools designed to provide easy to find information on scientific content are usually called Abstracting and Indexing Services, or just A&I. The goal of researchers, who want to gain citations and visibility, is to get their work indexed by as many A&I services as possible. Of course some of them are more or less important and this differs among disciplines.
I mentioned some A&I services, such as CorssRef Metadata Search and Directory of Open Access Journals in my previous entries. These two belong to a minority of services that are free for end users. Most well-known A&I services, like EBSCO and ProQuest can only be searched by its subscribers, and thus do not serve the majority of academics. The significant exception is Google Scholar (GS), which is probably the most popular academic search engine worldwide and is free for all parties. We also have to remember that everyone uses Google as a general search engine. Google Scholar is more inclusive than DOAJ, Crossref or any paid databases, which can be seen as both an advantage and a disadvantage. Regardless, being indexed by GS should be a priority, even for those who prefer using more selective, paid databases for searching.
As Beel, Gipp and Wilde (following Bert van Heerde) claimed in their paper on Academic SEO, Google Scholar is an ‘invitation based search engine’, which means that “Only articles from trusted sources and articles that are ‘invited’ (cited) by articles already indexed are included in the database. ‘Trusted sources,’ in this case, are publishers that cooperate directly with Google Scholar, as well as publishers and Webmasters who have requested that Google Scholar crawl their databases and Web sites.” Unfortunately, Google Scholar does not publish a list of “trusted sources”. You can send a request using this form to ask Google to index your personal website as “trusted” (we know nothing about the selection criteria but if Google decides you are a “scientist” then your personal website will be crowded).
When GS recognizes a website as being “scientific” it searches it for documents including sections such as references or bibliographies, and treats all of them as “scientific content”. This can sometimes lead to ridiculous results. For university websites, for instance, crowded as “trusted”, GS will index course descriptions and other materials for students, as well as blog entries if they are posted in the university’s domain. On the other hand, it seems that GS does not index Academia.edu. But, non-scientific content cited in academic works is indexed by GS (historians, cultural anthropologists, sociologists and other researchers in the field of humanities often treat popular writings as research materials and cite them in their work, Google Scholar then may treat their material as scientific). This is why searching via Google Scholar may sometimes bring surprising results.
To conclude, what should you do to get your work indexed by Google Scholar? If you are a book author, a good way is to send your book to Google Books. GS treats Google Books as a “trusted source”, so if your book contains references or a bibliography section, Google should treat it as “scientific” and display it in Scholar search results. Do not forget to include a link to the full text pdf in your book description.
If you are about to publish a paper, you should submit it to a repository that is indexed by GS (the one provided by your institution is probably good enough, as well as the most popular repository in your field, but check it by searching its content in Google Scholar). In any case the easiest way is for you to publish your work with a publisher that cooperates with Google Scholar directly. Information about this and other Abstracting & Indexing Services provided by the publisher should be posted on the company’s website.
Being indexed is just the beginning of your adventure with search engines and it is much easier than improving your position on result pages. Bear in mind SEO guidelines, but remember that to achieve this second goal (in case of Google Scholar, and in general) the crucial point is citations. That is why you should go Open Access and take some time to choose well-recognized places to publish, as well as to promote your research among colleagues. Although, the quality of your work should be your primary concern.