How Google Has Changed Academic Research

Kathryn Starke
Kathryn Starke
Professional development expert and National Urban Literacy Consultant; M.A. in Literacy and Culture
A close-up of a person’s hands as they research on a computer and write in a notebook.

The Rise of Using Technology for Academic Research

For decades, academic research has involved the use of books, encyclopedias, old periodicals, and primary sources. Specific primary documents include letters, journal entries, or historical papers. Academic researchers would often spend hours in public, state, or university libraries to have the best access to current journals, articles, and publications.

In addition to traditional printed research in academia, lab experiments, trials, interviews with sources, focus groups, surveys, and polls have also been used in academic research for years. The choice of materials used for academic research depends on the subject matter and topic. Researchers often captured their copious notes in notebooks or on recording devices.

The rise of using technology in everyday life, however, has significantly impacted how academic research is currently conducted, especially in education, education graduate programs, and universities. Instead of writing down research in notebooks, they are typed. Tape recorders have been replaced with phones or iPads. Technology software now enables individuals to easy collect, interpret, and analyze data. Email polls and surveys have replaced phone calls and boardrooms of focus groups. Lastly, the digital organization of newspaper articles, journal articles, and online encyclopedias, thanks to online internet search engines, makes academic research easy and convenient.

As long as a person has a device with internet capabilities, they can research and access academic research databases at home or on the go. You can even ask Alexa to provide you with a fact you instantly need to know. Yes, technology has made academic research a much less grueling and time-consuming process. However, it may not always be as simple as that.

Pros and Cons of Google for Academic Research

Lifelong readers and leaners have always been interested in looking up information and finding out facts on various subject matters. Instead of people now saying, “I need to look that up,” people say, “Google it,” and we know exactly what that means. Google is the most popular search engine of organization information on the web.

Pros

By typing a few strong key words in the search bar on Google, a person is given a countless number of links to click on and explore the information. A researcher can instantly receive pages of articles, publications, and news stories to read.

The pros of using Google for academic research include:

  • Convenience
  • Saving time
  • Organization
  • Relevancy
  • Ease

Cons

While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, there are some negatives when it comes to relying on Google for academic research. Since Google organizes everything based on SEO or keywords, the search engine picks up anything related to the topic a person is searching for. This includes information from local news stories, blogs, and social media platforms.

Google does not discern through all of their information to determine if it a link is actually verified and vetted research or if it is simply someone’s opinion. Just because an article shows up in a Google search does not mean it is appropriate for academic research.

If a researcher puts all of their confidence in Google, it can be detrimental to their research. Primary resources, specific journal articles and publications, and books are still truly only available offline. For an academic researcher, libraries and bookstores are still an important part of finding valid research.

Tips for Using Google for Academic Research

There are several tips to consider when using Google for academic research.

Utilize Credible Sources

The first one is to remember to determine whether each link or source provided during a search is credible.

Use Google Efficiently

The second tip is to use Google efficiently and as a time saver since it can easily suggest book titles and publications on the topic to check out from the library. Another important tip is to determine if a provided article is relevant and supports your research.

Use Timely Sources

It is recommended that virtual research should only be considered timely within the last ten years.

Google Scholar

The best tip for using Google for academic research is to use Google Scholar, and other Google Tools. This more specific search engine created by Google was specifically designed for research. Google Scholar is truly a catalog of research-based and vetted journals and publications. It only contains cited articles, publication extracts, and case studies specific to your search bar topic. The researcher can sort articles in a custom time range or specific year.

When a researcher takes advantage of this special feature and combines it with books, primary documents, and historical or scientific data, the academic research is valid and useful. Google and technology has certainly changed academic research, but when it is used correctly and intelligently, it is only for the better.

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