We live in a Golden Age of information and technology. Never before has it been easier to access massive amounts of information from a single location. Unfortunately, it is just as easy to access misinformation.
It must be stressed – and sometimes shouted from the rooftops – that using an internet search engine alone does not equate to conducting valid research. True research using internet search engines is knowing how to weed through the vast swaths of bad information and determining which returned material is valid.
An online internet search is a tool, one of many, for valid and effective research. Like any tool, an internet search engine’s effectiveness relies on the user’s ability to understand how to effectively use it.
A search engine cannot read a user’s mind. It can only act on the words and phrases entered into the search box. The user needs to accurately and in a straight forward manner define the search parameters. The greater one refines and defines a search query, the more relevant the search results that will be presented.
Even with a refined search, there is still a colossal issue that needs to be addressed: Anyone can publish information, disinformation, opinions, half-truths, and false information on the internet. Additionally, a search result may populate from a reputable news site, but the associated page is opinionated commentary.
Also, it is worthwhile to note that the order in which search results are presented is in no way indicative of the validity of the material returned. This can create a time consuming “rabbit hole” of source and information verification, resulting in research on your search results taking time away from your actual research.
Effective research includes a number of tools with Internet search engines being only one of them. Proper research utilizes primary sources, secondary sources, databases, interviews, qualitative data, and quantitative data in order to find, analyze, and present information. Any person with an internet connection can use a search engine. True research is a skill that has been learned over time and should be continually honed in order to produce genuine, unbiased results.