The Web and Research

While Google Scholar is often a great place to start, it should not be the only source for a literature search. Some of its shortcomings are that it doesn't handle truncation or wildcard characters so you'll need to explicitly search for all variations of a word, and it doesn't include material from some important publishers (e.g. Elsevier seems to be missing). It does include UC e-links if you access it from a campus computer or through the library's proxy server, and links to entries for papers that cite its entries. This is an enormously valuable service since a paper's bibliography can of course only cite backwards links to related work published prior to that paper. But Google scholar does not include links to the papers in the bibliography -- it has forward links but not backwards links. Note that you can also get it to display links that Import into BibTeX; click on Scholar Preferences and look under Bibliography Manager. This saves typing when you are using latex. Another nice feature of Google is that you don't actually need to know how to spell things as long as your misspellings are similar to those of other users -- but beware, virtually every other database is unforgiving of misspellings!

A great place to learn about other search indices is from Berkeley's Kresge Engineering Library's links.

If you already know the name of a computer science paper or its authors, find its entry in the CiteSeer ResearchIndex. Citeseer provides links to entries for both papers that it cites as well as papers that cite it - i.e. both forwards and backwards citation links. CiteSeer also includes bibtex entries for the papers it indices (although often the publication data is incomplete). Many CAD/CAM and solid modeling papers written by mechanical engineers are indexed on this site.

Another on-line citation index we have available from Berkeley computers is the Web of Science. This is a comprehensive citation index for articles in almost any scientific journal you can think of. It indices all conference articles or journal articles that are cited by journal articles, but not what articles conference articles cite. Thus its forward references are generally not as comprehensive as those on CiteSeer or Google Scholar. But it contains many more journal articles. The library offers useful seminars on Web of Science once or twice a semester. You can also go through the Web of Science Tutorial and the Cited Reference Searching Tutorial.

Sites with links are great resources for "surfing" if you have a paper to start from, but that doesn't count as a complete lit search! The most important article indices I use are Compendex (strong in mechanical engineering) and INSPEC (strong in computer science). Both can be accessed from the top of the Kresge Engineering Library 's site. For papers on psycho-physics aspects of virtual reality, PsychoInfo is a useful index/database that can be accessed from the Education and Psychology Library. Once you have found one article relating to your topic, do a long listing to find all the subjects and keywords it is indexed under and look them up to find related papers. Note that there are many useful tools that allow you to limit and refine your searches, do Boolean combinations of search results, and other useful database operations. Again, take a seminar. Remember, "a year in the lab can save you a day in the library." You are not just collecting a bunch of citations that will look good in a bibliography but trying to learn the state of the art. If you don't know how to take full advantage of the tools you are more likely to miss important references.

Sometimes there are electronic links to the full text through UC e-links, but all too often the e-link doesn't work even though the paper is available on-line. Many papers that are not available on-line to the general public are available on-line to the U.C. Berkeley community through the California Digital Library (CDL). Our library has paid for access to thousands of electronic journals and conference proceedings, often dating back 20+ years. However, assorted other proceedings, transactions and journals are also available electronically although not listed in the above CDL directories; for example:

To search for books or other paper proceedings, I use the UC melvyl catalog. I know, books are very old-fashioned and you have to actually physically go to the library to find them, but they are often worth the trouble (especially when you run into another interesting book nearby on the shelf, or other papers in the same proceedings, a type of browsing that still seems to be more effective with physical rather than electronic artifacts). Also some older or obscure proceedings will be available only in hard-copy or through inter-library loan. You should be able to request inter-library loans of items not available at UCB via the web-site, though I've sometimes had better luck when I filled out the paper cards at the library reference desk. Also, the reference librarians are quite clever at finding some proceedings under different names that you hadn't thought of (see their advice on looking up conference proceedings.) Talk to them. Take one or more of their training seminars - the resources available are constantly changing & if you don't know about them you'll never think to look. One of the useful services I learned about the first time I took a course was an "alert" feature, which emails you every week with any newly added entries that match your search criteria -- see instructions (MS Word) for the Web of Knowledge version.

Here are direct links to electronic versions of several journals and proceedings that I keep on my electronic bookshelf. (Note: most of these links only work from UCB computers)

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Latest update on or after: summer, 2010. Thanks to Brian Quiqley for some pointers on Google Scholar.