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.”

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