As far as the sanctity and purity of research goes, the act of using Google techniques when searching digital databases like JSTOR and EBSCO has come under heavy scrutiny.
In today’s post of Inside Higher Ed the argument continues: Should students know how search engines really work? Why are we need teaching better search techniques? Why are students resorting to Google-like search tactics on JSTOR? How have we failed them? Can we fix this?
While many research purist might argue that understanding the concept of logarithms and how it all works is essential for every student to know. Others, lets call them the pragmatists, recognize that research and learning are not paramount for many of today’s students. “Cobbling together a good-enough paper with the first three full-text papers that turn up in a simple search is bad, but for students — particularly those aspiring to nonacademic careers — it might make perfect sense” argues science librarian, Lisa Rose-Wiles. Students don’t have the same sort of views and put a priority on research and the papers that they have to write. The papers are a means to an end. The research, ditto.
Surely we can change our students search habits? But how do you when they utilize Google every day for every search for every occasion? It’s kind of like asking a butcher so well trained to use specific instruments for years to try using a rolling pin to achieve the same results. Failure every time. I don’t think that high schools are doing any justice but turning a blind eye and allowing Google as the sole representation of a research assistant.
Students need to see value in what they are doing. It has to make sense. It has to resonate, It has to fit into the very busy (over scheduled?) lives. Again, “there’s no real way to convince students that that behavior doesn’t pay, especially when they’re trying to juggle six courses and a job and a whole life and all the rest,” Rose-Wiles said. “So unless we can demonstrate some measurable payoff to searching, students aren’t going to do it.”
Casper Grathwohl, vice president at Oxford University Press believes that building a better Google-like trap may help to solve the problem. “If academics are going to improve student research in the age of simple search they will probably have to do so the same way Google changes the behavior of its users: by using better interfaces and more sophisticated indexing methods to nudge them, incrementally, toward competence.” So, essentially play the game if you want to stay relevant, because at the moment, JSTOR, EBSCO and the myriad of other powerful databases are well…not so powerful or effective in meeting needs (in the eyes of our students).
Again, we bow to the lowest common denominator. But do we have any other choice?
Do we have other options?