Microsoft Academic (MA) is another great educational resource we add to our list of academic search engines. Unlike mainstream search engines that are keyword-based, MA uses a different search algorithm, it uses what is known as semantic inference to identify your intent and consequently provide you with relevant search results.
Here is how MA articulates this difference: “In a keyword-based search engine, suggestions are a convenient feature, but in a semantic search engine like MA they play the important role of an intelligent assistant. Imagine this assistant engaging in a dialogue with you in order to understand your needs better and help you accomplish your search goal more efficiently. By understanding how papers refer to various entities, MA has learned commonly used acronyms and allowed them in query expressions. For the best search results, please wait for MA’s suggestions and click them to perform your search”.
The strength of MA as a semantic search engine lies in the wealth of related information it provides regarding your search query. As such, when you conduct a query on MA around a particular topic, MA provides you, besides direct results pertaining to your query, with other equally important information related to your topic such as ‘most relevant authors, institutions, publication outlets, and research areas’. As a research student, MA will definitely help you expand your knowledge about your area of research by familiarizing you with important information about your field of study including: seminal works, canonical literature, key authors, journal titles, conference names, and many more. You can also use MA in conjunction with Google Scholar to further diverse your search capabilities and access information that you can not find elsewhere.
MA allows you to use filters to help you get accurate results. You can, for instance, filter your search queries using criteria such as relevance, time of publication, and publication type (book, journal paper, conference publication, etc). You will also get access to the following semantic information related to your query: ‘top topics’, top journals, top authors, top institutions, top conferences. Here is a screenshot of the search result page of a query I conducted using the words critical discourse analysis.
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Courtesy of Higher Studies Magazine