Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Internet rathole for research

I feel bad for not posting, but the semester is dragging me down man . . .

Here is an interesting article about the way that academics follow links as they use the internet for research.  One study argues that the internet has led to a narrowing of citation, presumably because scholars only cite papers they find on-line.  Others dispute those claims.

The ease of internet searching certainly is enticing, making it easy to forget the vast world of printed information out there.  For students, this certainly is true, as it is hard to get them into the library to experience the vast knowledge accumulated on the shelves.  Too often it seems for them that if they can't google it, it doesn't exist. . . .


Bill Wresch said...

Thanks for taking time to post that reference. I suspect we have all given thought to some version of the question, but the analysis your reference is very complete and contains real depth. If nothing else, it may give us pause as we hit the stacks as the semester break gives us a brief period for uninterrupted scholarship.

Bob Hinrichs said...

FYI, the article on which the Globe's article is based is available through the Polk electronic subscription to Science Online:

Evans, J. (2008, July 18). Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship. Science.
v. 321, (5887), pp. 395 - 399. DOI: 10.1126/science.1150473

The reason I cite this article is to illustrate a point potentially lost in the narrow scope of the original research referecned. Easy online access allowed me to actually read the article (I would have never gone to Polk to follow through). In my experience, the intertubes have opened disciplinary boundaries that would have otherwise limited my research -- in my work on my dissertation on the uses and reception of climate science in public policy debates, I discovered valuable, relevant research in psychology, sociology, political science, econmics, and the natural sciences that would have otherwise been 'hidden' in journals that I didn't even know existed.

I think Evans has a valid point and his article is extremely useful in creating an awareness of potential limiting influence of electronic research. Awareness of the problem can foster a more reflexive attitude that is necessary to blunt the effect.