Google it. That's what many college students do when asked to read an excerpt of a play for class, write a resume or find the e-mail address of a politician.
They trust Google so much that a Northwestern University study has found many students only click on websites that turn up at the top of Google searches to complete assigned tasks. If they don't use Google, researchers found that students trust other brand-name search engines and brand-name websites to lead them to information.
The study was published by the International Journal of Communication.
"Many students think, ‘Google placed it number one, so, of course it's credible,'" said Eszter Hargittai, associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern. "This is potentially tricky because Google doesn't rank a site by its credibility."
In the published, study 102 students at the University of Illinois at Chicago sat at computers with researchers. Each student was asked to bring up the page that's usually on their screen when they start using the Web.
Scary but true. For people who rely on the internet for their livelyhoods they are increasingly in the hands of one organisation. This is the kind of thing that would keep me awake at night if I wasn't so damn good at sleeping. The crazy thing is Google is so ubiquitous these days that I find myself doing the same thing.
Good for them, but now that those professors have figured it out what are they going to do about educating their students about exploring and researching for themselves instead of just swallowing what G throws at them without questioning the results ?