Sunday, 23 March 2008

Google Book Srearch and Google Scholar as research mechanisms

This weekend I have been reading Media Research and Its Histories edited by David Park and Jefferson Pooley - especially one chapter stroke me: Walter Lippman, Straw Man of Communication Research. This chapter deals with "preferred readings" of Lippmann in communication studies and its objective is "to clear away some of the litter and suggest alternative interpretative frames" of Lippmann's work. The authors included in this analysis were selected because they have been most influential in shaping views of Lippmann within the field of communication; new electronic databases make it possible to identify these patterns of influence. Google Book Search and Google Scholar make it is possible to track the frequency of citations as well as patterns of influence by pairing names in the search engines. For example, pairing Walter Lippmann and James Carey identifies all books in the database in which third authors refer to both men as well as the page numbers of these references. The text of the joint citations can then be accessed to determine if an author is basing claims about Lippmann’s work on a primary source, a secondary source, or both. In addition, third and even fourth degrees of separation can be identified, when for example, an author relies upon and acknowledges Carey’s interpretive influence, as Jay Rosen does, but then others build upon Carey’s interpretation without acknowledging it; this can be done by comparing frequencies of references to Rosen and Lippmann to references to Rosen, Carey, and Lippmann. Scholars presumably, as it is stressed in this chapetr, display biases in favor of citing more recent sources, especially in the case of secondary sources (Ewen rather than Schramm); to cite more prominent scholars (Chomsky rather than Jansen); and those with name recognition in their own discipline (in communication, Carey or Schramm rather than Blum or Riccio).

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