Those of us born between 1980 and 1995 are sometimes referred to as the “millennials” and have grown up in a world full of mass media, ever-changing technology, and deeply connected social networks. Millennials are typically tech-savvy and gadget-loving, and have a knack for all things related to the Internet. With all the extreme exposure to technology and a seemingly endless amount of data at our fingertips, you’d think our generation would be able to research any topic presented to us. However, a new study done by the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries project in five Illinois universities has found otherwise.
[Ethnography can be defined as the collection of qualitative methods used to closely observe social practices and interactions. The researchers can then build theories and interpret why a social process is occurring. ]
Trouble With Internet Searches:
Researchers found that, instead of living up to their “digital native”reputation, many college students are unable to perform a simple Internet search. When trying to search for various topics online, only a small percentage were able to conduct “what a librarian might consider a reasonably well-executed search.” Many students admittedly gave up on a source if it appears confusing or difficult to access. When asked about how she goes about researching a topic, a junior in college reported that she “basically [throws] whatever [she wants] into the search box and [hopes] it comes up.” Researchers also found that students were unable to build searches that narrow or expand results. Therefore, students are typing keywords into search engines and hoping for quality results without bothering to control inputs or filters.
In Search Engines We Trust:
Similar findings have been reported from recent surveys. Last year’s survey of 1,000 college students showed that the majority of students trust the first result for their search on search engines like Google. Other students mentioned that they trust “sponsored links” appearing on the results page, which are really just paid advertising banners. This means that besides not being able to conduct an effective search, Millennials are overly trusting of search engine results- most of which are largely based on how many other websites link to a page. The problem with this format is that scholarly articles rarely make it to the top of basic search results.
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