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Does the use of general search engines in the research process pose serious risk to accurate academic and scientific work?

19 December 2017


Leading engineering institution publishes whitepaper which examines the growing trend of using general search engines to locate scientific information.

Students and early career researchers are becoming too reliant on search tools designed for general and consumer use and are not proficient at using the more complex, high quality scientific search tools and databases that are available to them, a white paper from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has found.

Research amongst engineering professors, researchers and librarians shows concern that students and researchers may be risking the validity, relevance and complexity of their research in favour of a ‘simplistic attitude to search’. ‘Cookies, fake news and single search boxes: the role of A&I services in a changing research landscape’ examines this growing trend and highlights the continued importance of Abstracting & Indexing (A&I) databases in an open web landscape.

The paper also discusses how these groups are helping to equip their students and peers with the knowledge they need to make informed choices about the sources they are citing, and demonstrate that specialist search databases are a faster way to find trusted, subject-specific information.    

Stephen Hawthorne, Director of Knowledge at the IET, said: “General search engines are increasingly exposing professional researchers and scientists to information overload and potentially low quality search results. Yet publishers, such as the IET, dedicate time and resources to the classification and discoverability of highly specialised information. 

“A&I services provide curated, indexed databases of information, built from high quality sources. When students and researchers use an A&I database validated by experts in their field, they have the confidence that they are accessing the latest, high quality information. In an environment where students and researchers face increased pressures on their time, having the skills to use these specialist resources confidently will help inform better research outcomes.”

‘Cookies, fake news and single search boxes, the role of A&I services in a changing research landscape’ is available via the IET’s website.

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries to:

Hannah Kellett

External Communications Manager

T: +44 (0)7738602426

E: hkellett@theiet.org