Review of Google scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus search results: the case of inclusive education research.

Author:Shah, Syed Rahmat Ullah


Bibliometric studies show that there is a high increase in scientific publishing. No research indicators in the last half century illustrated a decline in the scientific publishing. Many new publishing channels in different forms are being introduced in addition to the traditional publishing in books and peer review journals (Larsen & von Ins, 2010). Publication of research results for dissemination of scientific knowledge is a common scholarly practice. Reference and citation-enhanced databases; Google scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus, provide scientometric indicators to help researchers to find their relevant as well as useful information and its resources. These scientometric indicators on citation databases are being used as performance, quality, and achievement measures of researchers by university administrations for promotions and rewards. It is a problematic situation and of serious concern to researchers' community (Nelhans, 2014).

Previous studies have addressed various aspects of these citation databases. Many researchers generally compared these reference databases with each other (Bergman, 2012). Franceschet (2010) presented a bibliometric coverage of computer sciences in the databases. Yang and Meho (2006) compared the content coverage and available features for faculty ranking in a social sciences discipline, i.e., library and information science. Citation counts and citing sources for specific information source (e.g. book) have also been discussed in scholarly literature (Bar-Ilan, 2010). In the same way, some researchers used these databases in discussions related to research evaluation (Tahira, Alias, & Bakri, 2012). Further, some researchers used these citation data for their bibliometric studies, citation analysis, and research visualization presentations (Jarneving, 2006). However, no study could be found that compared various influences within the research area on the basis of citation counts on these reference and citation-enhanced databases like Google scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus. This study is an attempt to fill this research gap.

Inclusive education research area was selected as a particular case in this research. Although the concept of inclusive education is comparative new but it has produced a body of knowledge in a reasonable size. On the other hand, this area has been neglected in bibliometric studies. The present research has evaluated the coverage of inclusive education research in Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus. The findings have illustrated various influences and aspects of the development of the literature of inclusive education. Potential beneficiaries of this study are academia and researchers working in the area of inclusive education for identification of main authors, information sources, and their influences in the research area. It is of practical use for award, promotion, and funding bodies that consider bibliometric indicators of these databases as valuable measures for researchers' evaluation. Further, this study may stimulate further research in the areas of scientometrics and bibliometrics for proper use of researchers' productivity measures, quality evaluation, and better handling of research awards or rewards.

Literature review

Many studies presented comparison and contrast of different features in citation-enhanced databases, i.e., Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus. Bergman (2012), Falagas et al. (2008), Jasco (2005) and Li et al. (2010) compared content coverage and practical utility of these databases. They concluded that these citation indices differ from one another in one way or the other. Bar-Ilan (2010) stepped forward in concluding that Google Scholar lacked about one third of total citing sources for single book as compared to sum of citing source counts from both Scopus and Web of Science.

Scholarly productivity, publishing, and citation patterns in disciplines under sciences, social sciences, and humanities have great differences (Nederhof, 2006). It has direct effect on the output of search results on these reference extended databases. In pure and applied sciences, Falagas et al. (2008) stated that Google Scholar has often considerably less citations as compared to Web of Science and Scopus. Bakkalbasi et al. (2006) concluded that no single citation index satisfies all citation needs in oncology and condensed matter physics. Franceschet (2010) stated that citation based ranking for both authors and journals do not change in computer sciences.

In social sciences disciplines, Meho and Yang (2007) and Yang and Meho (2006) were convinced that inclusion of Google Scholar citation data into Web of Science and Scopus results provided more accurate and comprehensive scenario of authors' impact in ranking of library and information science faculty. Mingers and Lipitakis (2010) found that Web of Science had poor coverage for business and economics disciplines while Google Scholar had comparatively better coverage for these disciplines. Bergman (2012) conducted a research for social work discipline and came up with results that Web of Science was not a better covering source for that discipline.

Bibliometric indicators for ranking of scholarly published sources like specific books, journals, or universities have dissimilar results on these citation databases. Levine-Clark and Gil (2008) compared citation counts for business and economics journals. They concluded that collective use of alternate tools give better results instead of using any from citation tool. Bar-Ilan (2010) counted citing sources for a single book on these three indices and remarked that almost one third citating sources were not included in citing sources searched through Google Scholar. Aguillo (2011), in a webometric analysis of universities, found that universities in countries like China, Brazil, Spain, Taiwan and Indonesia were of far higher ranking due to non inclusion of low ranking scholarly journals in Web of Science and Scopus. Aguillo had quality concerns in considering Google Scholar as a good bibliometric tool. We can summarize the findnings of previous studies by concluding that these reference-extended databases are not a good source for ranking information sources and institutions in social sciences.

Research questions

On the basis of literature review and a consideration of various aspects of these databases (Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science) following research questions were designed for this study:

  1. What is the development situation in the inclusive education research?

  2. What is the publication pattern in the inclusive...

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