Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Drawbacks of Electronic Research

Using the internet to search for scientific articles is bad for researchers, says University of Chicago sociologist James Evans in an article published today in Science.

His argument is a classic computer-versus-paper library dilemma, updated for science: when researchers search online, they tend to arrive at just a few high-ranking articles. Lost is the breadth of scholarship encountered by old-fashioned, page-turning browsing.

Bravo! I've waited a long time for someone to say this. Read
the rest of the Wired article.


Anonymous said...

I think its really that when people work using a computer program, its not that they turn off thier brain, no, rather because it is too easy to delete what is written, that they don't really think things through before writing and citing.

I have seen the same thing in the construction industry, compare the blue prints from an architect or engineer thats 100% computer withthe one thats manually drawn. If you manually draw, you think alot more before starting, because it would take hours to correct. whereas Autocad has that 'undo' button, so there is less care about mistakes.

This same analogy also rolls over into the manufacturing world, as well as the academic world.

Michael Wade said...


That's very interesting. I've heard writers talk about the difference between writing a draft in longhand versus using a computer. There are even typewriter versus computer distinctions. Shelby Foote wrote with a steel nib pen because it caused him to consider each word.

I miss the old card catalogs that could be thumbed through. Invariably, something unexpected would be discovered from an unlikely source.