Google Scholar's filter bubble: an inflated actuality?

SOURCE: Research 2.0 and the impact of digital technologies on scholarly inquiry
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
AUTHORS: A.Esposito, K.Yu, N.Mustapha, N.Oozeer
DEPARTMENT: Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA), Research Use and Impact Assessment (PRESS), Research Use and Impact Assessment (CC), Center for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTii)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9440

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This chapter investigates the allegation that popular online search engine Google applies algorithms to personalise search results therefore yielding different results for the exact same search terms. It specifically examines whether the same alleged filter bubble applies to Google's academic product: Google Scholar. It reports the results from an exploratory experiment of nine keywords carried out for this purpose, varying variables such as disciplines (Natural Science, Social Science and Humanities), geographic locations (north/south), and levels (senior/junior researchers). It also reports a short survey on academic search behaviour. The finding suggests that while Google Scholar, together with Google, has emerged as THE dominant search engine among the participants of this study, the alleged filter bubble is only mildly observable. The Jaccard similarity of search results for all nine keywords is strikingly high, with only one keyword that exhibits a localized bubble at 95% level. This chapter therefore concludes that the filter bubble phenomenon does not warrant concern.