HeinOnline or Google Scholar? Why You Should Start Your Research in HeinOnline First

Law Journal Library, Miscellaneous, News

It’s been over 18 months since we announced that Google Scholar (GS) was indexing HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. In listening to the legal research community and our customers feedback, we have learned that a number of our users begin their research effort in Google Scholar to find articles related to their research topic. While we understand this may be a method preferred by many, we want to take a moment to further explain the indexing that has been completed by Google Scholar. Furthermore, we explore the various reasons why you should start your research efforts in HeinOnline first!

What did Google Scholar Index?

We provided the metadata for and allowed Google Scholar to crawl more than 1 million documents from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. The HeinOnline Law Journal Library contains more than 1,200 law and law related journals and is comprised of articles, notes, comments, reviews, legislation, cases, decisions, contents, editorials and other miscellaneous documents or sections. Of these one million plus documents they crawled, which are made up of more than 20 million pages, they opted to only include about 50% of the content in the Google Scholar index. The 50% of the documents that they chose to integrate with the Google Scholar index was chosen solely by the programming and/or processes put in place by Google Scholar. This means that there are potentially some well known, highly cited, scholarly articles in HeinOnline that are not searchable or available in Google Scholar!

What did Google Scholar forget?

While it is hard to pinpoint exactly what Google Scholar’s methodology is for adding documents to their index, we do know that they have left out some key documents from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library.

As HeinOnline users know, when you are in the Law Journal Library, you can search across a variety of document types including articles, notes, comments, reviews, legislation and more! While an "article" is the most commonly used term for describing a written work by a scholar, Law Journals also include notes and comments that are just as well-read and commonly-cited as articles are. Therefore, it’s important to search across all of these section types to get a full breadth of results related to your search terms.

Of the 500,000 or so documents that Google Scholar omitted from their index, there are some highly-cited notes, including the most-cited note. Cited more than 1,300 times is the note entitled "Developments in the Law – Equal Protection" from volume 82 of the Harvard Law Review in 1968-1969. The citation for the article is 82 Harv. L. Rev. 1065 (1968-1969). A search in Google Scholar for the term "Equal Protection" in the title of the article from 1965-1970 returns more than 100 results, none of which represent volume 82 of Harvard Law Review. Doing this same search in HeinOnline also returns over 100 results, but, the first result you see is "Developments in the Law-Equal Protection" which is cited more than 1,300 times. From the search result in HeinOnline, you can click on the Cited By link to view the other 1,300 or so documents that cite that note from volume 82 of Harvard Law Review.

Why Should You Search in HeinOnline First?

  1. By searching Google Scholar’s index first, you are potentially eliminating some key scholarly documents, many of which have been cited several times, from your search results.
  2. As Google Scholar begins adding more and more commercial databases, and partners with more organizations, the same article is apt to appear in several different databases. Thus, while an article may be available in HeinOnline, it will not necessarily display HeinOnline as the source in the first search results list you see. Therefore, in order to see that the article is in HeinOnline, you have to click All [#] Versions, and then find the result for HeinOnline. That means it takes MORE clicks to find your article (run the search, click All [#] Versions, click on the article name), where as in HeinOnline it only takes two (run your search, click on the article name).
  3. There are often data discrepancies in Google Scholar. For example, the 2nd most cited article in HeinOnline is "Path of the Law" from 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457 (1896-1897). In Google Scholar, the result is displaying an author with the name of "W HEN". If you pull this article up in HeinOnline, you will find that there is no author for the article. It would appear as though the "W HEN" is being extracted from the first word of the opening paragraph of the article.


    Furthermore, using this article as an example, the text snippet that is displayed in Google Scholar is a selection of text found on the third page of the article. When clicking on the link "Path of the Law" one would expect to see the same snippet of text as was displayed on the results page. However, what you see is the first page of the article. So, one may be easily be confused by the text they see in their result vs. what they see when they click on the result. In contrast, in HeinOnline, a user can use our View Matching Text Pages option to link directly to the pages where their search terms appear. We even highlight the terms on the page for you to eliminate any such confusion.


  4. Article meta-data in HeinOnline is hand keyed, thus representing the true value of the original material. This eliminates any "Ghost Authors", such as that in our previous example from the article "Path of the Law". Peter Jacso from the University of Hawaii at Manoa wrote an article titled "Google Scholar Ghost Authors" which explores the vast world of Google Scholar’s meta-data including the skewed data and creation of Ghost Authors. Click here to read the full article, http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6698580.html.
  5. It’s easy to search for an article by title, or search for key words in a title in HeinOnline. Simply use the Field Search option, type in the article name or key words from the article name and choose title from the drop down, then click search.
  6. With Hein’s ScholarCheck you can view other scholarly documents (articles, notes, comments, etc.) that cite a law review article. Since the HeinOnline database focuses on legal research, you will get other scholarly documents from law and law-related periodicals in your results when you click on a Cited By link. Google Scholar on the other hand, will only show you cited documents that are included in the Google Scholar index. Google Scholar does not focus on one subject area as HeinOnline does, thus the articles that cite an article may or may not be from law or law-related periodicals. Additionally, you may find a variety of books in your results. Therefore, if you are a serious legal researcher looking for scholarly articles from legal periodicals, HeinOnline is right on point.
  7. Google Scholar’s cited by results do not account for all of the scholarly articles that cite an article. For example, the article titled "Government Responsibility for Constitutional Torts" (85 Mich. L. Rev. 225) is cited more than 75 times in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. Google Scholar indicates that this article was only cited 3 times. In HeinOnline, you will see that 85 Mich. L. Rev. 225 was cited by 102 Harv. L. Rev. 933 , an article titled "Where Rights Begin: The Problem of Burdens on the Free Exercise of Religion". This article, 102 Harv. L. Rev. 933, is also in the Google Scholar Index, but Google Scholar does not list it as a source that cited 85 Mich. L. Rev. 225.

    Furthermore, in HeinOnline, we link you directly to the pages within 102 Harv. L. Rev. 933 where the article from Michigan Law Review was cited. In Google Scholar, they will link you to the first page, but then you have to read the article to determine where the article was cited.

  8. Google Scholar often creates multiple records for the same article. For example, a search in Google Scholar for intitle: "Path of the Law" from 1895-1899 returns 12 results. Of those 12 results, only one is a valid link to a document, and it happens to be the last result on the list. The other 11 results are citation records that Google Scholar has created multiple times for the same article. Searching for that article in HeinOnline returns 2 results, each of which links you to the article "Path of the Law", but each from a different source. Try this link and take a look at the results you get in Google Scholar, or review the screenshots below to see the difference in the results between HeinOnline and Google Scholar.


        In Google Scholar:

        In HeinOnline:

While the Google Scholar index may contain a lot of content, it may not be the right index for a legal researcher. Out of the Jungle, a blog focused on the present and future of legal information, legal research and legal education, wrote a post focusing on intellectual research in the life of the law. The post provides insight as to why lawyers or future lawyers should not rely on Google to do the research for them. Click here to read the full post, http://outofthejungle.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-lexis-and-westlaw-should-not-be.html.

As we bring this post to a close, we ask the question:
HeinOnline or Google Scholar; where should you start?
We say HeinOnline.