Lets ban google from colleges…

Four words that strike terror and despair into the hearts of all academics : “oh, I googled it”. 

In TCD students have access to perhaps the finest research library on the Island. Every other university has superb library facilities also, and increasingly these include deep levels of online journal histories, massive databases of knowledge paid for by the taxpayer in most. And when we give students a research topic? “oh, I googled it”. The concept of going to the library, in physical or electronic form and there doing a structured search for appropriate knowledge seems to be almost entirely absent from undergraduate students. Of course universities offer library information sessions but these are poorly attended and worse understood. Students simply want to google it…

Im serious. Lets consider for one term a ban on google search facilities from university domains. 

24 thoughts on “Lets ban google from colleges…

  1. Kevin Lyda (@lyda)

    Seriously? Why are books superior? Papyrus scrolls predate paper books – would research be better if students used those instead?

    This is just a silly post, sorry. Poor research can be done in libraries. Poor research can be done online. Instead of banning search engines and the internet, why not raise the bar on what you expect from papers? People now have books and the internet at their disposal; clearly they should be able to write far better papers.

    And while we’re at it, why isn’t TCD’s library fully digitised and searchable at least by students and faculty? Is there something particularly special about research where a human reads an index and then reads a page instead of a computer reading an index and a human reading a page?

    I like books. I have loads of them. But there are more efficient ways to present information to people. And there’s a lot of research and discoveries we need to make in the world. I have friends and family with diabetes, cystic fibrosis and degenerative nerve diseases. We’re a long way off from curing the cold and cancer. We have lots to learn about clean energy systems. It’s very clear we still don’t know how to run accountable governments or financial systems.

    Arguing for slowing down research for some dream of bygone times is irresponsible.

  2. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Let’s ban Google from colleges …

  3. Mary Carrick Scott

    Libraries are about as relevant as public telephone boxes. Open source the journals, and close down the libraries (or convert them into museums if you are feeling sentimental). The students are way ahead of you…

  4. Brian Mulligan

    A bit like saying, “as we are unsuccessful in teaching young males to drive safely let’s ban it”. Or we could teach students to use the Internet properly, as the web is way better than the best of libraries. Have we given up on the idea of “learning to learn”? Why would you teach them to research in the Trinity library if, when they go out to work they will not even bother to consider that source when they have the web at their fingertips. You might say it would be negligent not to teach them how to do research using the Internet.

    By the way, what you suggest can be achieved by any individual lecturer (professor in Trinity now?) – just specify in assignments the allowable sources. However, they will search the archives electronically and use the electronic journals in your online library services and still never set foot in the place. Fair play to them. But still it would be better to let them search anywhere and ask them to discriminate between the reliability of sources.

    Now is there anything else we could ban? Oh yeah, any education that reduces reliance on lecturers or teachers.

    Oh, and another idea. Let’s stop spending money on libraries.

  5. iainmacl

    Of course, it’s not just students that use Google. Many lecturers I’m sure hit the big G in updating lecture notes, etc. But I know what you mean. Tricky thought it is, the current trend in school level education is to look for un-googleable problems and tasks and of course to throw into contrast the distinction between learning as content vs learning as process.

  6. Howya

    Would Trinity consider making its online library available to the taxpayer/outside world? Given that you laud its quality then is not logical to provide access so that people no longer have to rely on Google/wiki etc?

  7. Deirdre

    Google is a very useful research tool, particularly for getting to grasps with an unfamiliar subject or for finding supplementary information that one can’t find in their university library (e.g. recent news updates on a subject of interest). However, I’d be very surprised if all students were only making use of Google, especially when writing assignments or researching theses. There is simply too much information not freely available online, and unless you’re willing to bankrupt yourself subscribing to journals (considering that access to a single article may cost you 30 quid or whatever), using the resources provided by academic libraries is necessary for students. Both Google and library resources are important for students, and while information from peer-reviewed journals and published books is highly important for academic research, it would be ridiculous to outlaw the use of search engines altogether.

    1. brianmlucey Post author

      Deirdre, you wouldnt be a bit surprised when you see what students serve up. Not all not all the time but for many the world of research starts and ends at google

  8. foleyg

    There’s a serious point here even if an outright ban might not be the best way to do it. Students, and the population generally, do not seem to have any concept of an evidence-based approach to anything. It seems deeply ironic to me that in this scientific age, many people are willing to believe anything – especially if it’s on the internet. We need to make sure that our third level graduates, at least, develop a critical approach to the analysis of information of all kinds. We should perhaps use Google to our advantage and actually use it to show how a reliance on Google alone can lead you astray.

  9. Niall

    Google is a search engine. It is just a way of finding information. It’s the quality of that information and what you do with it that counts. You can use Google to find academic research papers including the works of Brian Lucey (links in his blog).

    If the students have poor study habits, they need to be educated not punished

  10. Brian Mulligan

    I think this is from “University Teaching 101”:

    Design assignments that require students to use the skills you want them to learn (in this case discriminating between sources and properly referencing sources, etc)

    Grade students based on their demonstrated competences in these skills.

    “And if they persist in googling it?

    Well if they show the discrimination you are looking for give them good marks and if they don’t then fail them.

    Teaching ain’t rocket science – even if you’re teaching rocket science.

  11. Sean

    TCD has a copy of many books; if it is a recommended textbook, it might number 5, or even 10. These are supposed to be enough for anywhere up to 200-300 people? When your exams/assignments fall due, look up the number of lending copies of any of these textbooks, you will find no lending copies available. Would you rather a student use a 15 year old mediocre textbook (the one students have critically decided is of little use, hence is left on the shelf), or access higher quality online resources? If you don’t recommend a textbook, would you expect your students to all pick the right ones; if you don’t recommend online resources, would you expect all your students to pick the right ones?

    “Cynicism is one of the terrible obstacles to progress.”
    ― Bryant McGill, Voice of Reason
    “Stop allowing your outdated ideas to hinder your progress. How would your life be different if you became open to new information that can refine, improve, enhance your way of thinking, and empower your way of living?”
    ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
    “The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.”
    ― Bob Iger

      1. Brian Mulligan

        So if we open Trinity’s databases to the public they can be searched by Google.

        It just occurred to me that if we only allow students to search peer reviewed materials, they may not even realise what peer reviewed materials are. However, if we ask them to search the web and only to quote reliable sources, they may learn more.

      2. bealoideas


        One would hope that a university student can already tell the difference between an index journal and random internet stuff.

  12. Ali Gafni

    Google Scholar (with excellent descriptive note and caveat on that catalogue record) is integrated with TCD’s subscription databases via the ‘bridge’ of a link resolver – no full text in Google Scholar? Then use “Check TCD e-journals” link.


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