Professional reading: Searching for better research habits

Sorry this one is so long! But it seems very pertinent to librarians at the moment, including those working in public rather than academic libraries.

We’re all familiar with the research paradigm: “I Googled it”, but far more disturbing is the idea that students haven’t even learned how to use Google effectively!

Andrew Asher, lead research anthropologist at the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project, studied the search habits of more than 600 students and came up with these findings:

… “Of all the students that I interviewed, not a single one of them could give an adequate conceptual definition of how Google returns results,” said Asher.  Not even those “who should know better,” like computer science students.  The word “magic” came up a lot, he noted.

Asher pulled quotes from other students evidencing how the expectations and ignorances bred by habitual, unthinking use of Google had affected how students use other search engines, such as those built into the scholarly archive JSTOR.

The students in the ERIAL sample seemed oblivious to the logic of search or how to generate or parse search results with much patience or intelligence.  “I just throw up whatever I want into the search box and hope it comes up,” a junior nursing major told the researchers.  “…It’s just like Google, so I use it like Google.”

…  read on for more comments by other librarians.

Sargia Harrison
Information & Learning Centre

One thought on “Professional reading: Searching for better research habits

  1. Glenn November 7, 2010 / 1:11 am

    Many customers who visit the library and ask for information will have already tried Google and failed because they haven’t gone beyond basic searching. We need to know about advanced google searching and other google products BECAUSE when they come to the library we have a golden opportunity to press our claim as information professionals. Who knows we may even see them again :). Also, often the difference between a successful Google search and an unsuccessful one is a phrase search… even just a little bit of knowledge can make a big difference. What bodes well for us is that a lot of current training for new library staff at CCL does already include advanced google searching.

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