Google has become the bane of many a teacher’s existence. Yes, it’s an incredibly useful tool for research and learning, and it has made it easier for us to access the world’s information. But, it’s also made our students lazy and reductive when it comes to research. When I was in school, research meant going to a library, opening up the creaky cabinets of a card catalog filled with typed dewey decimals, authors, a terse description of the work, and a location. To find credible and viable research, I had to decipher that card, pore through shelves of hard bound journals, find my article, read it, copy it, and handwrite a citation using the MLA Handbook (I won’t say which edition) as a guide. This process reaffirmed the worth of that source to me; it forced me to really think about how I searched for information; it emphasized that good research is a process–sometimes a lengthy one. In graduate school, this process was streamlined by the introduction of online databases, which saved me a trip to the library, a bit of search time, but no less emphasized that good research as some quantifiable characteristics–a credible author, a spot in a reputable publication, and verifiable sources of information.
Today, my students cringe at the thought of using these databases and wonder why they can’t just type in a random search term–“banning pitbulls is wrong”–in Google, indiscriminately grab the first three results including Wikipedia and call their research process complete after 10 minutes. The downside of Google’s openness and ease is that it reinforces in students that if it’s on Google, it’s perfectly good to use, even if the source is clearly not credible (no author, a dubious author with no credentials or experience, extreme bias, zero publication information).
Today’s infographic, created by HackCollege.com and found via Daily Infographic
helps move students’ use of Google in the right direction, and helps curb a big problem they found: “3 out of 4 students couldn’t perform a ‘well-executed search’ on Google” (Source). The infographic is easy to navigate and is organized first by using operators to streamline the type of information a student wants to find (statistics, examples, etc.). One of my favorite tips is “don’t ask Google questions.” Google is not a person, it’s not going to understand what source is best if you want to know the average air speed of a swallow unless you use operators like “intitle:” (I love this operator–it helps reinforce scholarly research as opposed to general education sites; if velocity is in the title of a pdf document, chances are you are moving closer to a paper conducting research on the average velocity of birds).
Next, the infographic covers Google Scholar, a rarely used subset of Google that can direct students to the exact type of research they SHOULD be using in papers and presentations. The infographic then introduces students to some tips, tricks, and hotkeys (did you know Google could do math for you??). Finally, students are given three other important tips: 1. use the library; 2. don’t cite wikipedia, check the references instead; 3. look to a source’s bibliography for more great information.
This is sure to become an asset in the PCP reboot for both online and campus students!