Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Why Google should not be your first (or second) choice for academic-level research

While Google may be the first tool that pops into many students' heads when they need to find something, we're here to tell you that in regard to academic-level research, Google just doesn't cut it. Sure it's easy to use, but how accurate is it? How reliable and "scholarly" are the results you get, which often number in the thousands? The vast majority of "peer-reviewed" information is simply not available through Google. And while the use of Google does have a time and place for doing some research, that use should be as limited as possible. The following are reasons why Google (and Google Scholar to a lesser extent*) is not the answer, as well as suggestions for academic-quality library resources that you can use instead.

3 Reasons Google should not be used for your academic research:
  • Accuracy: there is no peer-review process for the vast majority of pages on the web. As a result, it is almost impossible to determine their accuracy, quality or purpose.
  • Authority: since anyone can publish a website and there is usually no control over it's content, it is often hard to determine who authored the page, what their qualifications are, or even that the page isn't deliberately deceitful.
  • Quantity: Google indexes billions of web pages and does not distinguish between academic information and the ravings of a madman. As a result, most searches in Google result in thousands or tens of thousands of results with very few relevant and "scholarly" sites.
*What about Google Scholar?
  • Better option than Google, but not as good as our library research databases; a subset of Google.
  • Indexes publicly-available papers, theses, and books; it is compiled by what a machine guesses is scholarly.
  • Results can't be sorted by date or publication, nor limited to peer-reviewed material.
  • The vast majority of results are not accessible in full-text at present.

Library Resources that should be your primary research tools**:

**Note: all of the resources above are also linked from the library home page: http://www.esc.edu/library

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