Below are the main points highlighted in a Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey of US teachers about How Teens Do Research in the Digital World.
Access a wider range of resources
Virtually all (99%) AP and NWP teachers in this study agree with the notion that “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available,” and 65% agree that “the internet makes today’s students more self-sufficient researchers.”
Students expect to find information quickly
At the same time, 76% of teachers surveyed “strongly agree” with the assertion that internet search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily.
Amount of information is overwhelming, discourages wide ranging search
Large majorities also agree with the notion that the amount of information available online today is overwhelming to most students (83%) and that today’s digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of sources when conducting research (71%).
Harder to find credible sources of information
Fewer teachers, but still a majority of this sample (60%), agree with the assertion that today’s technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.
Digital literacy courses should be standard in schools
Given these concerns, it is not surprising that 47% of these teachers strongly agree and another 44% somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.
The internet has changed the very meaning of “research”
Perhaps the greatest impact this group of teachers sees today’s digital environment having on student research habits is the degree to which it has changed the very nature of “research” and what it means to “do research.” Teachers and students alike report that for today’s students, “research” means “Googling.” As a result, some teachers report that for their students “doing research” has shifted from a relatively slow process of intellectual curiosity and discovery to a fast-paced, short-term exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete an assignment.
These perceptions are evident in teachers’ survey responses: 94% of the teachers surveyed say their students are “very likely” to use Google or other online search engines in a typical research assignment, placing it well ahead of all other sources that we asked about. Second and third on the list of frequently used sources are online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia, and social media sites such as YouTube. In descending order, the sources teachers in our survey say students are “very likely” to use in a typical research assignment:
- Google or other online search engine (94%)
- Wikipedia or other online encyclopedia (75%)
- YouTube or other social media sites (52%)
- Their peers (42%)
- Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, or other study guides (41%)
- News sites of major news organizations (25%)
- Print or electronic textbooks (18%)
- Online databases such as EBSCO, JSTOR, or Grolier (17%)
- A research librarian at their school or public library (16%)
- Printed books other than textbooks (12%)
- Student-oriented search engines such as Sweet Search (10%)
You can read the report here.