Is Google God? How Do Students Look for Information Today?

Gerri Foudy and Travis Johnson from University of Maryland at College Park presented their research findings on how students look for and evaluate information. They interviewed 256 students individually and 110 in focus-groups. The interviews were conducted by graduate students in the library and information sciences program at UMD. Those participating were not told that the research was being conducted by the library.

Based on the first question asked, where do you go/find information, a majority of people started with either a search engine or the library's web site. Students indicated that it depends on their information need as to where they start.  If they don't know a lot about a topic, they will start with Google before jumping into library research. 

I was surprised by some of the comments reported from graduate students. One grad student indicated that he/she would contact the author of a paper to get a copy before trying to get it from the library. Another graduate student commented on going to his/her advisor if they couldn't find an article on-line.

One of the presenters shared that many students also feel that newer information is the best. They don't quite understand how information is produced. They are coming from an on-demand multimedia environment. "Convenience trumps almost all else."
Findings about what they think about the library…they don't, they want to be independent, they only ask for help to physically find an item in the building. Many of the comments gleaned from the focus group show that many students have library anxiety, especially about the library as place.

Implications for instruction:

  • Students use the Internet daily for many different purposes. We need to change how we talk about the Internet in our instruction sessions.
  • Teach how to evaluate all information sources, don't focus on the web alone.
  • Teach advanced search options in search engines and relate it back to AND/OR/NOT.
  • Use active and peer-learning during library instruction.
  • Create easy on-line tutorials.
  • Implement simple search interfaces to library resources, e.g. MetaLib.

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