The newest kid on the block in academic search is a British-based company called Sparrho. With over 21,000 sources and 5 million search items, the platform allows from a more customised and research-led user experience for the academic world. I always welcome new tools that can make research easier to conduct, so I was excited when I read about this new platform.
After getting used to a completely different design, the platform is rather intuitive and easy to use: you choose your keywords, the type of content that you are looking for, and you could even specify the search to focus on certain sources. A feature that is very interesting is the different search modes that the platform has. You can go from the traditional ‘linear’ one which mimics other search engines style to ‘square’ and ‘cube’ mode to get different types of results. The ‘square’ mode would produce results that are around the concept that you input in the keyword section. On the other hand the ‘cube’ mode allows you to manually customise your search results, and with time it would allow you to have a more refined set of results as the platform ‘learns’ what you are trying to look for based on your previous choices. After giving it a quick try, this is my experience with it:
Things I liked about Sparrho:
- You can group your searches into “channels” and with time the search engine allows you to customise the kind of articles that you will be getting under that search.
- Excellent tool to keep you up to date with the latest publications in your field. Unlike Google Scholar, Sparrho is less prone to Scholar index spam, which sometimes amplifies the influence of older articles.
- The content types that are available have academic priorities in mind. You can search for journal articles, but also keep an eye on new grants.
- For PhD students, it could be a great tool as it also allows you to look for posters and videos.
- This can be also a great tool to keep track of academic conference worldwide.
Things I did not enjoy that much:
- Despite the considerable amount of sources, there seems to be a bias towards the ‘hard’ sciences. A quick search using keywords from a research project I am currently involved in (e.g. social CRM) led to less than a dozen articles, whilst Google Scholar still gave me over two thousand results.
So do give it a try and let me know your experience with it. For now I will keep using it for a while and write more about it in following posts.