You’re probably already familiar with Google Docs, an easy way to create, store and share documents via the cloud. Google has just released a new tool that makes Google Docs even more helpful: Google Docs Research Tool. Now any text you type into a Google Document can be searched via Google’s powerful search engines.
Can’t remember where a quote comes from? Type a few words from the quote into your document, right click and Google Docs Research presents a menu of results that may contain the answer.
You can even highlight full sentences and click Research.
Note that as your mouse hovers over any item in the Research panel, you will have 3 options: Preview | Insert Link | Cite. Click Preview and a snapshot of the webpage appears. Click Insert Link and a link to that webpage is inserted for the highlighted terms.
Click Cite and your Google Doc gets a numbered citation after the highlighted text and a footnote at the bottom of the page. A little housekeeping in the form of some added information (author, source, format) and the footnote is managed.
Click on any result, just as you would in Google or Google Scholar to view the result in a new tab.
Some faculty will have reservations about the value of Google Docs Research Tool. Amanda French of the Center for History and New Media finds that the “research” results may not have the depth required for many papers beyond the freshman year and is not a substitute for the usual research methods in databases or digging deeper into Google’s search results. Certainly, assessment of the accuracy and reliability of the “research” will still be required. And writers may be frustrated with the footnoting. The footnote content is very bare-bones, and does not usually include author information and other source information.
Google Docs Research Tool can provide convenient access to quick information and facts. While it is a bit of a lightweight tool for serious researchers, it adds a welcome feature to an already valuable resource.
[Lynne M. Fox, Education Librarian]