Google strategies in library databases = FAIL

Like many students everywhere, AUC students are inclined to use Google or Google Scholar for their academic research. Like many students, they attempt library database searches with natural language like they’d use in Google. Perhaps because English is their second language, they seem to have a harder time learning the lesson of finding keywords and synonyms. Persistence is not their forte.

Along these same lines, my colleague made an important but terrible discovery last week in a library instruction one-shot.

When you search Google, you probably don’t browse results past page one. At least not usually. Because after page one, the results are usually increasingly junky… or irrelevant, to use the proper terminology.

Well, apparently, many AUC students take the same approach in library databases, assuming, incorrectly, that page two and beyond will be irrelevant. So if they get 20 results in Academic Search Complete, they only scan the first page, missing, quite possibly, some excellent, if slightly older, results on page two.

Has anyone else noticed students doing this? Or did everyone else already know about this? It’s not something I observed of students in the US.

It’s great my colleague discovered this… but it’s yet another barrier for students in learning how to use library databases.


One Response

  1. I’ve noticed the same behavior with American students (lower-division undergrads, in my case). In fact, in library instruction sessions, I try to point out that while Google sorts by relevance, library databases tend to sort by date and therefore good (and still recent!) results can be a few pages deep. Since I started my career pre-Google, it has been interesting to watch how search behavior has changed in response to Google and the like, as well as how library databases have changed in response to Google (usually for the better!).

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