Students don’t know how to use Google

Researchers in library
Image: libraryman CC-BY-NC-ND

A two year ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) study into students’ research habits has found that students rely heavily on Google and user-generated content sites rather than traditional libraries and specialised research databases. More surprisingly, it found that students were very poor at using Google, with most having no idea how to use search features such as operators to narrow searches, or how to restrict them to certain areas, such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.

The team also found a lack of understanding of other keyword search facilities, with many students writing queries as questions rather than keywords, limiting the results they found.

The implications are significant for students and teachers: while we often assume today’s students are digital natives, in fact it appears that they often lack some of the basic skills and understanding to use digital tools effectively. Using a limited range of research tools, such as the first page of Google search results, has a significant effect on the range and quality of information students access, which has a knock-on effect on the quality of their work, the research found.

Source: Inside Higher Ed article

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