Microsoft Academic Search: An Introduction

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Microsoft Academic Search is an intriguing search system from (you guessed it) Microsoft that allows users to (you guessed it) search academic literature. The most obvious comparison is to Google Scholar search engine, but there are several differences between the two that we’ll get to later on.

Microsoft has taken Google head on before in the search realm with their Bing search engine. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Bing has been a huge money loser and has seen market share growth slow recently as well. However, the academic/non-patent search sphere isn’t singularly dominated by Google (unlike the broad search market), and Microsoft could well see success if they play their cards correctly.

Is Microsoft Academic Search worthy of a spot in your prior art searching tool belt? Which features are available in the current Beta state and which are yet to come? At Intellogist®, we love looking to the future on searching and prior art issues such as this, so this was a treat to check out. The expert patent searchers at Landon IP, our parent company, are always looking for the latest tool to add to their arsenal–could Microsoft Academic Search be that tool?

Read on as we profile Microsoft Academic Search as it is today and look forward to the promises it holds!


The first two things to note about Microsoft Academic Search are that it’s in Beta right now and that it’s also being continually updated. Right now, in fact, it’s in the process of a massive data roll-out over the next three months to more than double their available topic “domains.” As of this publishing, Microsoft Academic Search has over 27 million publications, but nearly half (12.5 million) were updated in the last week! Given that the data is in flux, it’s hard to come to any final conclusions about the usefulness of Microsoft Academic Search. Therefore, let’s dig in to a little of what the system has to offer now.

Searching by author brings up a nice summary of the author’s publications available to the system: number of publications, organization, citations, G and H indices (impact ratings), collaboration info, and a graph of output. Alongside the document results, there’s a helpful left panel that can “drill down” and narrow the search by additional factors.

An example of an author search result

A partial example of an author search result

The Compare Organization feature is a fun analysis tool that lets users stack up two universities (or other organizations) to see who’s the top publication champ. Microsoft Academic Search compares the two entities head to head in number of publications, citation count, H-Index (an impact ranking method), top subject areas, top keywords, and top authors. As is present throughout the rest of Microsoft Academic Search–the visual representation of the data and layout of the interface is very appealing.

An overview of the Compare Organization feature

An overview of the Compare Organization feature

Google Scholar isn’t the best comparison for Microsoft Academic Search yet, since Microsoft Academic Search doesn’t have all of its promised data yet. One area that Google Scholar excels in is searching legal opinions, which we detailed in a previous Intellogist Blog post. Additionally, the Google Scholar search results interface more often has excerpted text with keyword-in-context to make scanning through hits more user friendly and informative. Microsoft Academic Search definitely has more advanced analysis features available and a more appealing interface, however, so there are reasons to use both systems.

Do you have any experience using Microsoft Academic Search? We’d love to hear your opinions and thoughts about how it stacks up to other publications search engines and what you like or don’t like about it. Please leave a comment down below!

Sources
Hat tip to the consistently helpful Science Intelligence Blog for shining the spotlight on Microsoft Academic Search.

Patent Information from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

4 Responses

  1. I use Microsoft Academic Search whenever I remember, and am always pleased with the results.

    Usage habits get ingrained, so I tend to turn to Google Scholar, or the NLM/PubMed/Entrez search engines as a default. Sometimes I do that even when I’m not doing a search specific to the Life Sciences, which is particularly counterproductive!

    I like MSFT Academic Search because it is far better at capturing, in a single page, the level of activity and impact of an individual’s research. The timeline is primarily responsible for that. But the paper groupings, into little pull down tabs, which lump duplicate content that was presented at various conferences, or republished as part of some other work, really helps filter and summarize.

    Drill-down is easier, and for some reason, so is the ability to find free (legitimate!) versions of certain publications that some other search methods. Google Scholar is not bad for the latter, but is otherwise kind of a mess. It just spews out a list of citations, whereas MSFT has the same content, but does a lot of the work for me, without putting a wall between me and any of the underlying content.

    One other thing: MSFT offers an better way of accepting feedback about errors. There is data security and quality control in place of course, but users CAN easily submit corrections e.g. mis-attribution due to similar/ identical Scholar names. The error gets corrected within a few days, or sooner.

    I have a question, general purpose, so I’ll ask it here, as it doesn’t seem inconsistent with the topic of this blog post. When I was using MSFT Academic Search today, I noticed for the first time that some topics had “X days” following, from the main screen e.g.
    “Clinical Medicine(9 days left)
    Psychiatry & Psychology(79 days left)
    Economics & Business(19 days left)”

    What does that mean? Most other topics didn’t have any “# of days left designation”.

    Thank you for this post. I need to remember to follow y’all on Twitter now (Intellogist, that is. Maybe MSFT Academic Search too!)

    Double thank you if you are able to answer my question!
    Regards,
    Ellie K.

    • Hi Ellie,

      Thank you for your substantive response! Your hands on experience highlights an aspect of the system that I had overlooked (or at least not properly highlighted): the concision of information that makes the user experience a pleasant and helpful one.

      As far as the “X days” question, I believe that is their notation for when they are going to release those collections (those greyed out without “X days” notifications therefore would be released at some indefinite point in the future). It looks like they’re really about to let the floodgates open!

  2. it seems a new release just came out…

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