The other day I was telling a friend about how I’d found out that, in the study of older people, it turns out that taking vitamins (even the really good expensive ones) don’t make a bit of difference in older people’s health. It was interesting to me, and I mentioned it because I thought that she might find it interesting as well. No sooner had my comments left my lips when she whipped out her mobile device and Googled what I just said.
Now really, I understand that research has evolved far beyond my all-nighter research papers I did in college–I used to lug a bag of books back to my dorm, and go through any number of pens and pads of paper in the research process. Once I culled out what I needed, developed a killer topic sentence, organized the material and made it into a coherent paper, I typed it up on my old faithful typewriter and turned it in the next day. Now all anyone need do is Google. In fact, “Google” seems to have become today’s word for “research.” I have to wonder if people are learning as much from the Internet as they did when researching the old-fashioned way.
This is certainly not a criticism of using Google, but it’s interesting how the aspect of researching information has changed. The very process of finding the references, reading those references (using real books meant that you couldn’t take a break and play Angry Birds for a half hour to relax, either), digesting the information, and then thinking about how to put it into a concise and well-thought-out research paper–all these things lead to understanding and learning. To this day I can tell you facts and history about Charles Dickens, Marie Curie, the Russian poet Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko–all because I had to do a good amount of work to find everything. And I did those papers over 40 years ago!
It seems that the harder we work on something, the more we remember. I certainly don’t count my decades-old research papers as anything of historical value (except to me), but I do remember them. Now that I can Google things, just as soon as I get my answer, I’ve already forgotten it.
Perhaps researching has become a thing of the past. Maybe these days we don’t value the knowing of something as much as we value the finding of something.