There is a profound difference between finding something vaguely relating to your topic and finding material which allows you to support, critique, analyze, clarify, redesign and argue a predetermined and cogent hypothesis in a balanced and thoughtful manner -- and in so doing, use data and information to create original thought. This is, in essence, the difference between performing a search and undertaking research.
Search engines are designed for the completion of searches; that is why they are called search engines, not research engines. We know the search is complete because we already know the answer -- we know what we are looking for. Searching is what I do when I look for my wallet. If I find the wallet, my search is complete. I know it is complete because I recognize the wallet as mine.
When we don't already know (or anticipate) the answer, our search becomes research. Suddenly, the results from the search engine are not nearly as "good", as "useful", or as easy to accept. For example, a Google® search on +"canadians live within * kilometres of the" retrieved the following "answers":
90% of all Canadians live within 500 kilometres of the US border
90 per cent of Canadians who live within 320 kilometres of the US border
90 per cent of Canadians live within 250 kilometres of the border
More than 90 per cent of Canadians live within 160 kilometres of the border
Ninety per cent of Canadians live within 100 kilometres of the Canadian border
eighty percent of Canadians live within one hundred kilometres of the US border
most Canadians live within 300 kilometres of the [US border]
Most Canadians live within 160 kilometres of the US border
Most Canadians live within 150 kilometres of the American border
most Canadians live within 100 kilometres of the Canada-US border
A search engine cannot create the answer; it can only present possibilities from which we must choose based on our knowledge, technical skills, observation, reflection and experience.
The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with. [Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, Note G, "Sketch of the Analytical Engine"]
figuring out where to look;
creating functional searches;
finding a range of answers;
analyzing those answers;
asking new questions;
deciding whether to keep looking in the original spot or looking somewhere else;
creating new searches;
finding a new range of answers;
analyzing those answers;
and so on.
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Created: 2006/05/03 Last updated: 2010/08/19
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