Beyond My Mind

March 19, 2007

Comparison of Bibliographic Search Engines

Filed under: Research — mahbub @ 1:23 am

Inspired from the responses of my post comparing free bibliographic tools, I planned on posting few more articles about other different research tools. Here I am presenting a comparison of bibliographic search engines. The next article will be on scientific document processing tools. This series of comparisons follow a general pattern in which I start with the usage of such tools, followed by setting up a set of criteria to compare on and then I compare different tools. I believe this is a reasonable choice to present these topics.

Bibliographic search engine is a general purpose research tool that contains all the research citations for one or more broad subject area(s) to which people can refer to reliably for their specific personal research. It is different from “personal bibliographic tool” in the sense that a bibliographic search engine is developed for the commons; it must be reliable for any reference it is providing, it must provide a way to export the data but it does not need to present the reference in any specific ‘visual’ or ‘presentation’ format.

The way I search for scientific articles is pretty simple. Say I have a problem to solve that was assigned by some course teachers or my research supervisor. I mark some keywords and Google for them. If I don’t find any relevant information I use combination of those keywords or use alternative keywords adapted from the search results. Once I start getting some keywords that produce relevant results in Google, I pass it to Google Scholar. Sometimes I go to some other subject specific search engines to search using those keywords.

Expected Features from a Bibliographic Search Engine

A bibliographic search engine must be accessible from each and every operating system available. For this reason all such databases are platform independent, i.e. web based.

Providing a reliable collection of references is not an easy task. Obtaining huge publication information, plugging them into the system, providing the information to the user and maintaining them periodically are all enormous amount of tasks. The data collection process may not be free. Moreover, if a search engine wants to provide soft copy of the reference along with the citation information then the search engine provider has to pay for it. For this reason many of these search engines are not free.

I tried to compile a set of features expected from a bibliographic search engine. I believe the following requirements are complete and sufficient for general purpose research.

  • Areas: Number of main stream subject areas covered. For example, medical, engineering, etc.
  • Search: Support for searching different data fields. For example searching for title, author, abstract, etc.
  • Export: Export formats and automation
    • Format: Different formats supported. For example, BibTex, EndNote, RIS, etc.
    • Automation: Communicating through API calls or other ways from external applications
  • Document: A soft copy of the document
  • Cost: Cost of obtaining the service.


Google is inserted twice in the table. This is not a typo. I think general Google search and Google Scholar search are quite different. In few cases research papers are freely available in public domains that Google Scholar may not recognize. So I consider both as different search tools.

Table 1: Comparison matrix of bibliographic search engines.

Name Subject Area Search Export Format Export Automation Electronic Copy Cost
Google General General None No No Free
Google Scholar General Title, Author, Publisher, Date, Area None No No Free
CiteSeer General General BibTeX May be Yes, with exceptions Free
ScienceDirect General Title, Author, Journal Name, Volume, Issue, Page RIS, ASCII RefWorks Yes Paid
IEEE Xplore Electrical eng., Computer Sci., Electronics General, Advanced RIS, ASCII May be Yes Paid
ACM DL Only ACM Articles, mainly Computer Sci. General, Advanced BibTex, End Note, ACM Ref May be Yes Paid
ACM Guide Computer Sci. General, Advanced BibTex, End Note, ACM Ref May be Yes Paid
CSB Computer Sci. General, Advanced BibTex No No Free
DBLP Computer Sci. General BibTex No No Free
Net Bib Computer Sci General BibTex No No Free
PubMed Biomedical and LifeScience General, Advanced Unkn. May be Yes Free
Ingenta Connect General General BibTex, End Note May be Yes Partially Free#
Engineering Village* Engineering Unkn. Unkn. May be Yes Paid
ISI Web of Knowledge* General Unkn. Unkn. Yes Yes Paid
arXiv* Physics, Math, Computer Sci., Biology General, Advanced None No Yes Free

Like previous article I need your help here to complete this table. I am requesting more information from you.

Mid Size Search Engines

Some new generation web based bibliographic tools have been evolved that can act as search engines for a specific subject area as well as help a single person or a group of people by acting as personal bibliographic tool. The main problems of this kind of mid sized search engines are that they may be poorly maintained and may not be that much reliable. You can find names and comparison of some of these tools in my previous article.

This article is rather a simplified outline on all the bibliographic search engine available. One must however, depending on his/her specific subject area, find out which search engine best suites for him/her. Your comments on more search engines, grammatical/spelling error and writing style are most welcome.


  1. Here are a few more search engines:

    Engineering Village
    ISI Web of Knowledge/Science

    Comment by Kjell Magne Fauske — March 19, 2007 @ 2:42 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Kjell. I updated the entries.

    Comment by mahbub — March 19, 2007 @ 3:10 am | Reply

  3. IngentaConnect is a free to use service, its wrongly classified in your table as a “Paid” for service. Some of the content on the service is also free, the rest is available to subscribers or for PPV. Its important to distinguish between the costs for accessing the service and the content.

    Comment by Leigh Dodds — March 19, 2007 @ 8:13 am | Reply

  4. Thanks Leigh Dodds. I updated the entry.

    Comment by mahbub — March 19, 2007 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  5. Just thought I’d add a few comments about the ACM DL/Guide. I use them almost daily. They are a great search service. However, until Zotero came along, I found importing references into bibliographic software (EndNote, in my case) to be very obnoxious.

    1. You cannot export multiple references simultaneously but must export them one by one.

    2. The exported reference does not include the abstract, which I very much prefer.

    Thanks to Zotero, though, these are no longer problems for me. Zotero can scrape a set of results all at once and abstracts & keywords are included.

    Comment by TessaC — March 20, 2007 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  6. Google Scholar actually does export into multiple formats, including Bibtex and RIS. You can choose this in the preferences section. It will also link to full text so long as you have subscriptions to the material. It’s actually very good at scouting out free copies of the article as well.

    Comment by Jim Delaney — March 20, 2007 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  7. […] “beyond my mind” blog has a post comparing different academic search engines. The author also describes his search strategy: The way I search for scientific articles is pretty […]

    Pingback by Academic Productivity » Comparison of academic search engines and bibliographic software — March 24, 2007 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  8. see also

    Comment by shan — April 2, 2007 @ 11:45 pm | Reply

  9. […] is an adaptive web search? As I mentioned in one of my previous articles it is a cute and smart technique to find what you want using a web search engine, like Google. Let […]

    Pingback by Genetic Algorithm in Adaptive Web Search « Beyond My Mind — April 11, 2007 @ 3:36 am | Reply

  10. […] Comparison of Bibliographic Search Engines « Beyond My Mind via (tags: search database google scholar academic science bibliographie interface RIS repertoire article editeur OpenAcces archives moteur WoS a&i) […]

    Pingback by PabloG — April 25, 2007 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

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  12. […] is not alone if offering free academic article indexing for a wide range of sources. This post lists a bunch of free and paid services. Microsoft live academic has a very similar system, […]

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    Comment by brongespeense — November 14, 2007 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

    • No cotlnaipms on this end, simply a good piece.

      Comment by Lizabeth — December 14, 2014 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  14. Hi.
    Good design, who make it?

    Comment by naisioxerloro — November 28, 2007 @ 9:47 am | Reply

  15. Google scholar offers various citation export options: BibTex, EndNote, RefMan, RefWorks, and WenXianWang. You have to click on Scholar Preferences and then change the import citation option in Bibliography Manager.

    Comment by Ashutosh — December 12, 2007 @ 11:35 am | Reply

  16. Very very interesting article! You describe very important theme. I’m going to discuss about it in my blog to my readers. Unfortunately I’m late to write the same article in my blog. In the web are a lot of same sites and blogs but your differs markedly of its profundity.

    Comment by Phentergirl — February 4, 2008 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  17. Hi,

    The above article has been written in 2007. In the meantime, new tools appeared on the market, e.g. link resolver and central indexes (+ federated search systems) working together. So typically a university will have its library website offering access to its internal holdings + electronic subscriptions + free articles via a central index platform (see huddersfield University for example). The result list will display the hits + the link resolver icon which gives access to the article itself. Faceting and clustering are provided to refine the search.

    How do you integrate the search engines listed above in such an environment ?

    How did you develop your thinking in the meantime ?

    regards – fred

    Comment by Blanc, Fred — August 31, 2011 @ 7:55 am | Reply

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