Google is the first place most people go to for answers - and it’s probably how you found this article. Unfortunately Google has a lot of problems when doing academic research; almost everything on the internet can be included in it. This is great when you want to look up something like “how late is home depot open”, but not so great when you’re looking for detailed articles for your new research paper on Genome Sequencing.
1: Search Engines don’t vet content
Anyone with internet access can blog. They don’t even need a credit card, nor do they need to provide their real name. Typically with just an email address (which is also free and doesn’t require any verification), a blogger can get up and running in a few minutes.
The biggest problem with doing a search in Google (or any other standard search engine), is that you have no idea who wrote the content, or if it can be trusted. Traditionally, this role has been filled by Academic Journals, which vet the author, the research, and then publish to audiences.
The problem with Journals is they are expensive - if you don’t belong to a library that pays thousands of dollars per year for that specific journal, you won’t have access. Additionally, publishing to a journal costs money and takes a long time; it’s both a burden getting content in, and getting content out.
Fortunately, as technology advances, there’s been newer and better ways to publish content. The most popular new way to publish content online is through Blogging. Google picks up many blogs and anyone can access those blogs for free (for most blogs), but now we’re back to “who wrote this, can I trust it”.
This is where the ACI Scholarly Blog Index comes in. Not only do we vet every blog we bring into our system, we also profile authors and provide auxiliary information about who wrote the article right with each source:
In this example, you can see not only the full-text of the story, but also who published it, what categories that publisher is authoritative in (LC Class), when it was published, and some information about the publisher. You also get a full profile of who wrote it (Brian Wang), who he wrote it for (Next Big Future), and social media and credentials for both the author and the organization he works for.
2: Blogs come and go
Want to bookmark this story to keep it for later, or view it on the go? ACI offers “Bookmarks” as well as custom “Lists”, which let you add stories into organizational categories so you can more easily make notes of what your paper should include, as well as make citations easier.
I know what you’re thinking “every browser already comes with a bookmark button”. Yes, this is true, however when bookmarking a blog in your browser, you have to go back to that blog again to get the full-text source. Yes, this is OK if the blog stays at the same location, or online in general, but what about blogs that change their URL pattern, or go away entirely?
ACI has thousands of publications, and hundreds of them have either changed URL schemes, moved, or just completely gone away. Forgot to pay your hosting provider? Surprise, everyone trying to access that blog post is now presented with a page saying you’re no longer around. There is no quicker way to guarantee a failed grade then putting in citations to sources that no longer exist. How can you verify sources if the average blog site only lives for a few years?
For added security, ACI also backs up all content to Portico - an approved academic solution to preserve access for libraries should anything happen to ACI.
3: Community Activity
ACI also provides a general “Community Activity” score around the article which helps tell you how popular this article is within the academic community. This allows researchers to find the most actively engaged content and focus just on topics that are of interest at the time. ACI derives this score as a value from 0-99, where 0 is the least popular, and 99 is the most popular. Community activity also rolls into Authors, so it’s easy to identify the most popular authors within the academic community, for a given subject area.
Where this can become really useful is when sorting, and filtering by year. It can become quickly evident what the most popular topics are for a given LC Class, and it’s easy to identify “hot topics” and the best performing stories in your field. This allows researchers to craft blogs in similar styles to make sure they get the most traction.
4: Advanced Faceting
You know when you’re shopping on Amazon and you type in “mouse” and it comes up with mouse traps, instead of that new peripheral device you want to buy for your computer? Then you see on the left side an option to filter just to electronics, so you click on that, sort by price, and even filter down to just the items available on Prime, and boom, you have exactly what you were looking for.
This advanced filtering is called “Faceting”, and is also available in ACI. ACI allows you to filter by category, author positions, what school an author graduated from, what degree the author achieved, and even how many comments are available on the story. Looking to find out the most popular story for Cancer Research in 2015? It’s just a simple set of filters away.
5: You have to pay for it.
Wait, the fact that it’s not free shouldn’t be a positive… should it?
Yes actually it is a positive. When you’re paying for a service, you’re getting the product. When you have a service for free, you are the product. Every website costs money to run, and the people building it (like me) need to make a profit. Eventually everything ends up being sold, or VC money runs out and the product will collapse if it can’t find a way to make money.
Want to be sure you’re getting the most out of your time? Don’t rely on just free products to do everything. Paying for a product that works well is the only way to make sure that product stays in business. After all, it’s only 99¢/month.
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