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Are Google Scholar citations accurate?

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Since 2012 Google Scholar offers academics the opportunity to create their own profile, something I would really recommend you to do. Setting up a Google Scholar Citation Profile is easy and very quick. A GS Profile is your academic business card, it is the quickest and easiest way for other academics to see all your publications at one glance. If you have a common name it is also the only sure fire way to disambiguate your publication record from that of your namesakes. Just make sure that, once you have created your profile, you click the box "Make my profile public". Otherwise you will be the only one who is able to see it, which defeats the whole purpose of creating a profile in the first place.

The good: a great solution for "stray" citations

Creating a GS profile is also a great solution for one of the biggest annoyances in citation analysis: the presence of "stray" citations. Stray citations are not the same as multiple identical web versions of the same paper; Google Scholar normally aggregates those under one master record. What I mean with "stray citations" are records that have not been aggregated under their master record. These 2nd (and sometimes 3rd and further) versions of the record typically only have a small number of citations each and are generally the result of misspelling of an author’s name, the title of the publication or the journal. They can also be caused by Google Scholar parsing errors. For more details on this, please see: Google Scholar: Stray citations.

Stray citations tend to be particularly common for "non-traditional" publications, such as software, books, book chapters, and conference papers as there is generally no standardised way to reference them. It is therefore much harder for Google Scholar to figure out whether they do refer to the same publication. For instance, although Google Scholar does a much better job than the Web of Science for references to my Publish or Perish software programme, there are still many stray citations (see screenshot below), which - in my GS Profile - I have all merged into the master record. Any records in your GS Profile that contain merged citations are shown with a * behind the citations. You can merge strays by logging into your profile, checking the box in front of the records you want to merge, and clicking merge.

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