Thursday, May 17, 2012

Directly Integrated Research With Google Docs

So I'm sitting here working on a few of my final Summer Reading Program plans.  I rely extremely heavily on Google and Pinterest these days, so those are my everyday go-to sites.  I use Google Docs, Blogger (obviously), Google Calendar, etc.  I open up Google Docs today and there, in the corner is a shiny new bauble!

Meet the Google Docs Research Tool!

I have to admit that it sidetracked me long enough to lose focus on my actual document.  What a clever little minx Google continues to be!

It is very obvious that Google Docs is finally starting to catch on (5 years after it was originally made available for use), as Google has beefed up their social media and work-group compatibility with products such as Google Drive and Google+.  My own library is very reliant on Google Calendar, and is currently hashing out our Strategic Plan for the upcoming year with Google Docs.  Outside of the professional uses, Google is clearly trying to attract more "everyday" users, such as students and teachers as well.  And for the price of $Free.99, it's hard to ignore them.

So What is the Research bar?

Well, while we librarians (and teachers) generally try and steer research to more formal resources, it is no secret that many of our students/patrons (and us as well), use Google to begin our searches. Whether used as a starting point or not, Google is a major part of how many of us find information that we use in our work.  The Research bar, found by clicking the Tools tab, basically speaks to that fact by allowing users to search their topic while working on the document itself.

Aside from the familiar document and image searches, there is also a nifty quote searching option.  Settings allow you to filter image results by usage rights, but there don't seem to be any other setting options.  Perhaps they are coming along soon, but in the meantime you can get lost in the sea of information that includes docs, images, reviews, and even maps.

Sounds Interesting. What About the Results?

When results come up, you can click the tab labeled "Show Sources", and see a list of sites where the information has been or can be found.  See something you want to add?  Click "insert" and it is placed directly into your document. The minute you do so, Google automatically adds the source to a citation list and footnote.

The Images are not as easily integrated, however.  The image search provides results, including the source information, but it took a little tinkering for me figure out how to add them to the document.  Felt a little silly when I saw that they were added by dragging and dropping, but I blame Google for not making the insert format universal. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  When I did finally figure out how to add an image,*rolls eyes*, I discovered that Google automatically cites them as well.

What Will It Mean for Librarians & Teachers? 

In all honesty, a Google search is still a Google search, so no matter how snazzy the new button looks, basic knowledge on how to best perform one is still relevant.  Teachers and librarians would do well to acquaint themselves with it, and add it to our arsenal, but our usual stance on how Google should not be the end-all/be-all of research remains true.  I've enjoyed playing around with it, and I appreciate their understanding of the tools students and writers need, but it is at its heart, merely an additional tool.  The research bar has been added, but the proverbial one has not been raised.


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