Thursday, July 16, 2009

Think Before Googling

Researchers in quest of information, data, articles, topic overviews, and more are often tempted to turn to their favorite search engine... The key to successful searching of Google or any other search engine lies in taking the time to think. A well designed search string does wonders for removing the irrelevant or questionable. Then more critical thinking must be applied in scanning the results. As Howard Rheingold writes in "Crap Detection 101", June 30, 2009:

"Unless a great many people learn the basics of online crap detection and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and very soon, I fear for the future of the Internet as a useful source of credible news, medical advice, financial information, educational resources, scholarly and scientific research. Some critics argue that a tsunami of hogwash has already rendered the Web useless. I disagree. We are indeed inundated by online noise pollution, but the problem is soluble. The good stuff is out there if you know how to find and verify it. Basic information literacy, widely distributed, is the best protection for the knowledge commons: A sufficient portion of critical consumers among the online population can become a strong defense against the noise-death of the Internet.

The first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap, a technical term I use for information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception. Learning to be a critical consumer of Webinfo is not rocket science. It's not even algebra. Becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of web credibility testing is easier than learning the multiplication tables. The hard part, as always, is the exercise of flabby think-for-yourself muscles. "

See the complete post for helpful detection strategies of content found on the Internet. By the way, these "detection strategies" are often referred to as information literacy skills, which librarians are pleased to reveal upon request. Contact one of the Gardner-Harvey librarians for a research consultation or classroom instruction soon.

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