Is Googling Research?

One of the most pressing challenges for librarians and teachers is introducing students to research methods and processes. In the P12 system and post-secondary, teachers and supervisors take pains to distinguish between googling and research or between wikipedia and reliable sources. This often reduces to guidelines for smart Googling, elaborate “Research Methods Beyond Google,” or more lengthy cautions of plagiarism traps within search engines.

Similarly, cautions are raised about Wikipedia as an academic source or medical source (“Something you Should know Before Googling“) and critics love to point to founder Jimmy Wales’ infamous comment: “For God’s sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia.”

When Purcell et al.’s report on “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World” was released in 2012, no one was really surprised by the findings. The survey of over 2,000 middle and high school teachers found that ‘research’ for students means Googling. Two years later, few would argue that this has changed.

How can students be wrong? Google’s mission remains: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” And Google itself relies on Googling for “Google’s Hybrid Approach to Research.”

2 responses to “Is Googling Research?

  1. In the article on How Teens Do Research in the Digital World stats reveal that in research assignment:
    Google or other online search engine (94%) (However, do elementary kids specifically grades 6 & 7 have the skills to navigate the web) or do they need skills to navigate the web

    Wikipedia or other online encyclopedia (75%)

    YouTube or other social media sites (52%)

    Their peers (42%)

    Spark Notes, Cliff Notes
    or other study guides (41%)

    News sites of major news organizations (25%)

    Print or electronic textbooks (18%)

    Online databases such as EBSCO, JSTOR or Grolier (17%)

    A research librarian at their school or public library (16%)

    Printed books other than textbooks (12%)

    Student oriented search engines such as Sweet Search (10%)

  2. This is a really interesting article, thank you for sharing Jeena! My research focuses on learners in higher education, but I think that the concept of digital citizenship helps address some of the ways in which individuals use digital technologies such as Googling, and some of the criteria that may impact effective use. This quote from Mossberger et al. (2012) has been very useful for me and I feel applies to the question “Is Googling Research” as well:

    Digital citizenship requires regular and effective Internet access and the skills to use the technology. This suggests meeting multiple needs?access to high-speed connections at home, hardware and software, technical skills, and critical thinking skills?to enable evaluation and use of information online. Both access and skills vary in quality, defying a simple dichotomy or divide. (Mossberger et al., 2012, p. 1)

    Their study looks at internet different types of internet activities and research is not explicitly stated, but implicit in several of their types of online activities. They conclude that general connectivity to the internet impacts digital citizenship and I believe that research could be included in that scope.

    I often find that in my teaching, many students are just starting to develop this skill set during the time I am working with them (rarely before). In light of this I try to ask questions that lead towards critical online research and am now thinking that developing some activities around this would also be a good idea.

    Do others think that “connective immersion” is an important factor in strong research skills?

    Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & Hamilton, A. (2012). Measuring digital citizenship: Mobile access and broadband. International Journal of Communication (Online), 2492.

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