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What is the Internet?

Promises and Pitfalls of Internet Research

Putting Internet Research into Perspective

Tips & Suggestions for Students

Teaching Ideas & Suggestions

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Search engines don't always find all of the relevant sites

Bad information is not the only problem. Students may not be able to find any information at all, depending on the topic and how they are indexed within a search engine. More than one student has complained that they could not find one single site related to their topic/topics that often have to do with such worn-out issues as affirmative action or political correctness. Jamie McKenzie, Director of Technology and Media for Bellingham, WA public schools, complains that her students "had to visit dozens of sites and pass through many levels of menus before finding solid content relevant to the curriculum question at hand" (31). When students do find relevant sites, the information may turn out to be superficial, biased, or ill-informed; in addition, information can quickly become out-of-date and obsolete, and useful sites can change or disappear from one day to the next. A student who was researching NASA's launch of the Cassini rocket found that all of her sources disappeared the day after the launch, although her paper wasn't due for another two weeks! Finally, the research students conduct on the Internet may be careless and thoughtless. In an article in The New York Times, Hofstra University journalism professor Steven Knowlton argues that the Internet makes "students think research is far easier than it really is" (18) since they are often able to easily come across several dozen relevant sources; as a result, their papers can end up full of data but superficial. Todd Oppenheimer interviewed several scholars who expressed concern that computers encourage thoughtless study practices; a geological-researcher at Mobil Oil feels that "people who use computers a lot slowly grow rusty in their ability to think" (54).