I woke up this morning with the very clear thought in my head to do a blog post on how I use Google Scholar as a resource in my studies for my devotions and polytheism. A rather dry and boring topic but hey, maybe someone will get some use out of it somewhere.
For those of you that don’t know there is a specific search engine of Google that only indexes and searches scholarly and published material. It is not your standard Google search, but a whole different search engine all of it’s own. In Google’s own words, “Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature.”
The benefit of Google Scholar to your polytheism practice is that it means you will not have to weed through geocities type websites wondering where exactly someone got the information that the Morrigan is associated with pumpkins. None of that is going to be in Google Scholar, because Google has created criteria for what is “scholarly literature” and they stick to that. Most of Academia do everything they can to get their works in Google Scholar as a result, because it provides more discoverability for them and their careers.
The difference between an academic paper and a website mostly comes down to standards of sources and peer review. I am not saying you can trust absolutely everything you read in an academic paper you found on Google Scholar. That is just silly. Papers are written by people, who have agendas, and biases, and Google Scholar is also filled with historical scholarly content which will have theories and viewpoints that have long since been proven incorrect. These are all incredibly important things to remember when researching anything. That being said, there is a standard of citing sources, and even peer review that means there is more reliable information in these papers than a random website that pops up. Because all it takes to put up a website is server space and a domain. Publishing a paper takes a bit more leg work.
Alright, one more disclaimer and then we’ll push on to the meat of it. I am by no stretch of the imagination a professional academic. This is all my very amature way of trying to build up my understanding and studies of the culture and the history of the Gods that I worship. If you have better methods you would like to share, if there is something I am missing, please feel free to comment and let me know!
Step 1: Go to Google Scholar! Search!
Fairly easy step. Go to https://scholar.google.com, and you will be presented with a search box that looks very familiar but in fact is different.
Here you can enter the search term you would like to find articles on. If you are like me, you may have forgotten that there is a wide variety of advanced search commands you can use to best utilize getting the search results you want. You can find a list of these commands on this website.
The two most useful ones in my experience are using “parentheses” to search for exact phrases and the minus (-) command. For example if you wanted to search for “Irish poetry” -Yeats, you would get results that contained the exact phrase “Irish poetry” but did NOT contain Yeats.
This can be super useful when you try looking for something and notice that you keep getting results that are not what you are looking for.
Step 2: Looking through Results!
Alright! Now we got some results. How to decide what’s worth looking at and just general info.
The first thing I would like to note is the option in the red box on the left hand side of the screenshot. There are two options “include patents” and “include citations”, generally speaking for polytheistic studies you aren’t going to be looking for patents, so you can go ahead and turn that off. You may want to include citations however, as that will give you the names and authors of articles that many other articles are citing in their works. It is likely that they won’t be available online for you to read, but if you have access to a college library or contacts you might be able to track them down, but you can disable them if you just want articles.
Next is to look at the information under the Title. That includes the Author, Institution or Journal, when it was published, and maybe platform it is on. This is all important information to look at and can tell you a lot about the article.
Publishing Date: As I mentioned before there is a lot of historical published articles that are in Google Scholar. You can get a feel for what information is going to be up to date, vs what might have some historical biases, based on when it was published.
Anything published in the Victorian Era, so 1800’s, is going to have out dated information in it. Archaeology, history, and just academic understanding has come a long ways since then. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have good information in it. It just means that you will need to read it with a critical eye (you should do that with everything but you get what I’m saying). The Victorian era in particular, besides being filled with racism, was also a time when Ireland was under colonial rule by England. A fact that colors a lot of the papers written at the time. Additionally you will find a lot of classicism in regards to deities in these papers. This is where you will read about Lugh being a sun god and other Irish deities being the “Irish Mercury” and so on. It is important to know the lens that you are reading a paper through.
Some other things to look into is the Celtic Revival, or the Celtic Twilight, and the schools of thought prevalent during those time that will likely be present in papers written during those times.
Honestly, just learning the different eras schools of thought is a study all of it’s own. You can get into nativist vs anti-nativist theory, the “Celtic Migration”, and probably a whole lot that I am not even aware of because as I said I am not a academic in the field. Just a Branwen being a nerd.
Author: This one I usually pay a little more attention to this after I have read the article but it can be useful before as well. You can look up the author and see what institutions they studied at which will tell you something about where and how they got their information. If they are a professor your can sometimes get bios on faculties sites as well that can be helpful. How is this helpful you ask? Well, is this an American born academic that has always lived in the USA? Or is this a British born academic? Do they or have they ever lived in Ireland? Did they study at an Irish institute? These things again can give you an idea about the lens that they are speaking from.
Plus knowing the author means you can look up to see what else they have written. (Moar Homework!)
Source Information: So if you see JSTOR, that means it’s available on JSTOR, other publication and online journals might be listed. JSTOR there is a good chance that it is available to read online for free with a JSTOR account. One thing you are going to realize and run into quickly is what are known as “Pay Walls”. That means that you would need to be with an institution (college, university, etc) that is paying for a subscription to the journal to read the article, or sometimes you can pay to download the article (usually around $20).
Academics need to be paid just like the rest of us, and while I do believe that we will eventually get to a full Open Access model of education, we aren’t there yet. BUT there are a lot of open access articles you can find, AND if you live near an awesome library you should see if you can go get access through them (Libraries are the best.)
Cited By: Underneath the blurb about the article you will see a link that says “Cited By” and a number. This indicated how many other papers in Google Scholar cite this one as a source. They will also link you to those articles.
Step 3: Read all you want! Set up alerts, swim in information!
Once you go through and find the articles that are available for reading online, you can also set up alerts so that whenever a new article matching that search criteria is indexed into Google Scholar. To do that you can click on the “Create Alert” link in the purple box in the left hand of the screenshot. This will then send you an email when new articles are indexed and meet your search. Magic! Information straight to your inbox.
That’s all I got for you today folks! I hope that this shined a little light on a new tool for you to use in all your lore seeking needs.
If you liked this and would like to see more content like this. Let me know! Send me a message or comment. I’m always curious if this kind of information is too dusty and dry or what. But then again I also believe that we should share our resources so that we can all have access to what we need for self betterment.
Happy hunting! May the information that you seek find it’s way to you and you have the wisdom to use it for the greater good.