Getting lost in the stacks

I'm in trouble now…

I recently discovered a black hole as deep as the internet for losing time in, but which is much more edifying - so I don't feel so bad about all the time spent there because I'm learning stuff.

How useful that stuff is has yet to be determined.

We begin with Google Scholar. This is a corner of google's search engine that is focussed exclusively on technical journals and peer-reviewed publications. It's fantastic if you're looking for technical information about something that is also for sale; regular Google would be massively polluted by people selling that something, or asking for help about that something, or reviews of that something, or blogging about that something. There's just one catch, and it's a big one: the journals are almost all pay sites.

Oh, they let you read the abstract, and sometimes you're just doing an overview and that's enough. But at $30 per article or more, it can get expensive really fast if you're actually trying to dig into a subject. On top of that, if you're looking for something specific like the solubility of a relatively obscure compound (by 'obscure' I mean it's not on wikipedia), the information may not be in the abstract.

Then I remembered from my student days that the university library had a proxy which students could log in with and which would give full, free, institutional access to most of these pay sites. Of course the university would have a subscription! Of course, I'm not a student anymore.

After a bit of investigating, I discovered that my old student number was still in the university's system, and I successfully logged in to the proxy and downloaded a few papers that I'd put on my "to get" list.

Next thing I knew, it was three hours later, I'd downloaded a dozen related papers, was having a grand time reading them and following references—and I was still at work.

Fortunately, I was looking up information related to one of my projects at work and some of the interesting stuff I'd read might help the project, so I knew the boss wouldn't mind. Too much.

Now I have a bookmark to Google Scholar via the library proxy in my browser's bookmark bar which takes me to the proxy login page then to the search engine, so that every link I click on in the results goes straight to the full article.

I think I'm in love.

No comments:

Post a Comment