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Library Confidential: Fall 12 - The Google Effect

The Madigan Library dishes the latest in student research

Professional Development

Critical Thinking and Information Literacy:  How Do I Teach That In My Course?
Presenter:  Judy Zebrowski, Librarian, Information Literacy Initiatives

Project Information Literacy reports that many students lack the acuity to understand research as a process involving higher-order thinking and information-seeking skills.  These transferable learning abilities can be developed through meaningful teaching moments, and the research assignment via a series of steps, a scaffolding experience, to cultivate critical thinking and information literacy throughout the research process.  This session will explore how we can teach and foster critical thinking as an integral component of information literacy to meet course objectives and pedagogical goals.

Date:  Dec. 18, 2012
Registration through EIS available soon

Google Habit
The Google Effect
Improve students' research skills by using both digital library and popular internet search tools.
Presenter: Tracey Amey, Librarian, Digital Initiatives

The session will explore the disconnect between the goal of faculty to have students use sophisticated digital library tools and students' ability and willingness to use these tools successfully to find the information that will serve them best. Practical solutions for bridging the gap will be discussed.

Date: Dec 18, 2012, 1 p.m.
Registration through EIS available soon


Madigan Library

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Tracey Amey
Librarian, Digital Initiatives

Judy Zebrowski
Librarian, Information Literacy Initiatives

The Google Habit

The Google Habit: The Hidden Struggle

by Tracey Amey, librarian

As an information professional, I understand the appeal of Google. It has a fantastic indexing program and it always produces results.

That's the key. Google always produces results. Students use google for research because they are so successful at using it for personal research. A recent study has shown us that students refer to Google more than any other database.

The problem is, they aren't very good at using it for research. 

That's the myth of the digital native: Just because you've grown up searching for things in Google successfully doesn't mean you know how to use Google as a good research tool.    

The most powerful influence that Google projects over its users is its success rate. It has unbelievable indexing power. When you type something in the Google search box, you are sure to get something back, even if you spelled your search terms incorrectly. When a tool works for you 100% of the time, using it becomes an ingrained habit.

Student quote

But this habit has side effects. For example:

  • Students don't learn to discern different types of resources because Google returns blog entries, comments and new articles in one list with no differentiation
  • Students overestimate their own research skills
  • When they are asked to use a research database, they are often overwhelmed by the options available to them

As a result, students fail to develop basic critical thinking skills for research and advanced search techniques and benefits. They don't understand specialized databases and often choose inappropriate resources for academic research. If relying on Google for research assignments results in students having stunted research skills then this practice needs to be discouraged by faculty doing academic and advanced research.

But how do you do this in a way that doesn't discourage students, make them anxious, or force them away from their natural inclination? Can you acknowledge and use their native Google habit?

You could consider engaging students first in a research activity that allows them to use their most reliable, comfortable research tool - Google. Have them discuss or write about not only the topic, but also the resources they used to find them and whether or not they think Google was successful for them. Then, for a second research activity, you could utilize Google Scholar or Google Advanced Search, which will introduce them to exploring higher level research with advanced search options, but in a comfortable environment, with again, a discussion of not only the topic, but also the resources they found using these more advanced tools. And finally, as a term project, introduce them to the library's research databases, where they can develop advanced research skills in a rich research environment.  

Google Search Infographic

Google Tips

Get More Out of Google : Tips & Tricks for Students Conducting Online Research by Josh Catone 

This infographic offers a helpful (and fun) primer for your students on how to best structure searches using advanced operators to more quickly and accurately drill down to the information they want.

What we're reading now

College libraries and student culture: what we know now Anthropological study on students research habits
Improving Research Skills    Study findings show even disadvantaged students acquire improved research skills during college years

What about the "Google Effect"? Improving the Library Research Habits of First-Year Composition Students

Explores practical alternative assignments that use both library and popular Internet search tools

Why the "Research Paper" Isn't Working

Concepts and practical approaches to alternatives to the research paper

Ken Bain:  Deep Learning:  Pursuing Questions that are Important, Intriguing, or Just Beautiful

Acclaimed educator Ken Baines talks about how recent college graduates solve information problems once they join the workforce and more