In Mythbusting the ‘Google generation’ report, Jon Udell digs into a claim about "the Google Generation" and tries to find out where the evidence comes from. What he finds is that it's not as easy as it should be. The deeper you go, the more you have to dig because the papers are all published in PDF and contain no hyperlinks.

Eventually he concludes:

But do you see the irony here? The study making this claim was constructed and published in a way that resists all efforts to evaluate its relevance, accuracy, or authority. Which hardly matters, since none of the reporting about the study seems to have made any such effort.
Pioneering research shows ‘Google Generation’ is a myth? So far as I can see, that report says more about the researchers who wrote it, and about the reporters who reacted to it, than it says about any real or imaginary trends.


The larger issue (one of them) has been bugging me for a while now. The Web is clearly not going away. So why is it that so many respected journals and research publishing outlets completely fall down when it comes to providing actual URLs that point to supporting material?

This stuff shouldn't be rocket surgery.

You need to assume that people will discover and read your material on-line, in a web browser. Make it EASY for them to verify your claims and understand where the reasoning comes from. It'll actually make your case stronger in the long run.

Posted by jzawodn at February 08, 2008 01:16 PM

Reader Comments
# Ramon said:

Totally agree with you on the inability for journals and research publishers not proving actual URLs.

Also, "rocket surgery" is my new favorite word.

on February 8, 2008 01:50 PM
# Joseph Scott said:

Agreed, but sadly this isn't limited to traditional media folks, I see bloggers do the same thing all the time:

on February 8, 2008 03:28 PM
# Guillaume Theoret said:

I think it's because they've never had anyone check up on them before.

The difference between the pain barrier of reading a newspaper article, then heading to the library to check the claims and vague references and reading an article online and doing a google search is massive.

They've never had to back up what they write before and it's only now starting to dawn on them that some people do have critical reading skills and exercise them much more frequently now that it's easy.

I expect in 10 years serious journalism will link stuff properly but between now and then it's going to be hit and miss.

on February 8, 2008 04:03 PM
# Terry Howard said:

Yeah, this is not new to journalism at all. Like the commenter above said, the advent of the network let's us all just see it so much quicker. I can do a search on an article I just read, instantly find multiple articles that either refute or support it, some which may provide relevant sources, and all within a few minutes I can pretty much ascertain whether the story is garbage or not. 9 times out of 10 I tend to find that these vaunted reporters are just hacks.

on February 9, 2008 05:10 AM
# Matt H, said:

I was reading a blog post the other day that suggested items for Valentines day coming up, but only provided links to the store website, not the item it was suggesting. You still had to search for the item on the store website. They should have linked directly to the product.

on February 9, 2008 07:39 AM
# slashk said:

While I think that the use of URLs are "A Good Thing(tm)", it does bring up the question of permanence. What happens when the URL that you based your research on goes away ? Unlike the Library of Congress (US biased, I know), there isn't an official body that catalogs the intertubes (please, no wayback machine references). Or a way to retrieve it even if it is archived. Or make sure its the same version that you read.

Unless you are going to static link the research into your paper (interesting but unrealistic), I think you have to do it this way.

on February 9, 2008 10:44 AM
# Deepak said:

This is a big issue in the scientific community. In addition to the whole open access debate, the one that people often tend to forget is the inability of journals to move to the internet age. You have to give Nature Publishing Group and Public Library of Science props here. PLoS One is journal designed for the web and not just a PDF version of a print journal. Allows you to add comments and annotation to papers, etc, which, while still not quite in the mainstream, but is a good way of getting discussion going around a paper. The TOPAZ platform on which the journal runs supports trackbacks and the like as well.

on February 9, 2008 10:53 AM
# Deepak said:

slashk, CrossRef, the organization that handles DOIs is doing something to try and preserve permanence. Every paper has a DOI, which would be a good way to keep track over time, with each DOI getting a unique URL.

on February 9, 2008 11:39 AM
# John Hunter said:

You are exactly right. Failing to provide links to online resources is lame. Providing context for what you claim and links to supporting, etc. information is the only sensible way to write now.

on February 10, 2008 03:30 PM
# Micah Sittig said:

The New York Times had a great hyperlinked article recently:

Links to CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times, Amazon, internal links... Makes me wonder how they handled it in print.

on February 13, 2008 12:23 AM
# Cosmetic Surgery UK said:

but now, every one is hungry for links. if you check and dig, you will see plenty of links all over, may be you need to try harder in finding them

on March 24, 2010 01:11 AM
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