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Microsoft Launches Windows Live Academic Search

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Microsoft has rolled out Windows Live Academic Search, a targeted search service focused connecting students and researchers with peer-reviewed scholarly information.

Although available to anyone, Windows Live Academic Search is designed to help students, researchers and university faculty conduct research using academic and scholarly journals. Although search results are free, users must either have a subscription to a journal or pay on a per-article basis to access the full text of journal articles appearing in search results.

Unlike Google Scholar, which crawls the web for academic content, Windows Live Academic Search works closely with publishers and uses structured feeds to build its index. As such, all content accessed through the service comes directly from a trusted source—namely, the publisher of a scholarly journal.

The new service addresses two needs of the academic community that have traditionally been under-served, according to Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Windows Live Premium Search. Academic users want tools to help them fine tune search results, and are interested in getting more information on a search result before clicking off to specific article.

To address these needs, Windows Live Academic Search includes a number of features not found in traditional web search results. Notably, search results are presented in a split-pane view, with article titles and other information on the left, and a preview pane on the right that displays an abstract from an article when the mouse is hovered over an article title.

Users also have the ability to group and sort results by author, journal, conference and date. There's also citation support for two major bibliographic formats making it easy for a user to quickly compile a list of citations.

Tiedt said that Microsoft is collaborating with Lee Giles and his team at Penn State, who've created a specialized search tool called CiteSeer that I've raved about in the past. Windows Live Academic Search borrows a terrific feature from CiteSeer called "author live links" that will automatically connect to the search results of articles associated with a particular author by simply clicking on the hyperlink of the author's name.

The new service also provides support for Microsoft's recently introduced "macros" tool that allows you to finely tune search results and create RSS feeds that can be used as alerts when new information on a topic or author you're interested in becomes available.

The initial version of the service includes content in the fields of computer science, electrical engineering and physics from scholarly societies. Groups working with Microsoft on this initial launch include industry association CrossRef, the IEEE, the ACM, Taylor & Francis Group, the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, Ex Libris, TDNet, Serial Solutions, Blackwell, Elsevier, Nature Publishing, British Library, OCLC and Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The beta service is available in English versions in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Australia. Additional markets, and content in additional subject areas will be added throughout the beta period.

Microsoft has no plans to include sponsored listings in the results of Windows Live Academic Search. Rather, the company views this as an opportunity to encourage heavy users of search services to frequently visit the Windows Live site, where the Academic Search service will have its own tab. Academic users search six times as frequently as casual users, according to Tiedt. "We're thinking of this product as part of the search ecosystem," she said.

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