Just "Google it!" This has become a phrase that many of us hear every day as college students. Google has become the quick, one-stop online search engine for answering all your questions, ranging from who Nick Lachey is dating today to what happens when you throw elemental potassium into water. Students like me who look for fast answers to their everyday questions resort to Google first.
"I use Google for everything and anything," said Jackie Setili, a junior at the University of Michigan. "Mostly to find other Web sites for info. For example, I will look up new songs or artists I like, the weather, maps to get places, etc. It is an everyday source. In the last week I have used it to look up concert dates, good stretches for runners, why my dog might be sick "
Google is fast, easy and convenient; every college student's dream for conducting research, or is it?
"Google is just an easier place to get info about general things when you need it fast and can deal with a wealth of different information and sources," said Setili. "It is not an alternative for college-level, professional research sources. When there is so much junk on the Internet, you can't trust everything that pops up on a Google search."
Most of what one can find on Google are open Web sites that have not been published or approved, making them sketchy sources at best for academic research.
Students conducting academic research requiring a bibliography know that they have to use books or their library's academic online databases. "The articles you find through online databases have gone through so many hands to be published, you know you can trust them," said Cathy Shubert, a sophomore at the University of Michigan.
In writing this article, I looked through many of my own saved syllabuses from this past semester. In each one, my professors required the use of scholarly articles that could only be found by using our school library's online databases.
These databases provide valid sources for research, papers, speeches, etc. while also allowing students to narrow their search fields to find articles pertaining to their specific topic or field. "For example, if I wanted to look up something for Literature I would go to English databases. Google doesn't offer that," said Jackie Paquet, a senior at Denison University.
However valid articles are that come from online databases, students confess that sometimes they resort to Google out of laziness and not knowing the online resources available at their library.
"College students are lazy or just pressed for time. Sometimes it is just easier to use Google to search for information for a paper when you know that your professor is not going to be a stickler about the sources," added Setili.
These online databases can be hard to find on a library's homepage, especially at a large university like the University of Michigan.
"U of M is large, and its library has so many databases that sometimes it's like a huge black hole ... the library is not getting the word out to students as to what resources are available," said Shubert.
If you ask any college student about their use of Google, they'll answer saying they use it almost every day. It's unfortunate that these same students don't know the variety of online databases that are offered to them free through their school's library. This is due in part to poor communication from the libraries and professors who generally do not know about these databases and how to use them.
"Professors have to realize the availability of these databases. That will, in turn, get to the students and from there it will travel by word of mouth from student to student, " said Shubert.
Bottom line: large database providers and librarians need to do a better job at marketing to the faculty and students - the people who actually need and will use the authoritative content and research tools they provide. Without this concerted effort, it appears that a lot of money and time is wasted letting these valuable online databases collect virtual dust!