Study: Students Too Trusting of Web Search

EVANSTON, Ill., July 26 (UPI) — A study of U.S. college students says they are too trusting of results offered up by Internet search engines like Google, and give them too much credibility.

Northwestern University researchers found students were only clicking on Web sites that showed up at the top of Google searches when completing assigned class tasks, assuming them to be the best and most accurate, a university release said Monday.


“Many students think, ‘Google placed it No. 1, so, of course it’s credible,’” said Eszter Hargittai, associate professor of communication studies. “This is potentially tricky because Google doesn’t rank a site by its credibility.”

Researchers gave the students a variety of hypothetical information-seeking tasks to perform online.

“Search engine rankings seem extremely important,” Hargittai said. “We found that a Web site’s layout or content almost didn’t even matter to the students. What mattered is that it was the No. 1 result on Google.”

“Just because younger people grew up with the Web doesn’t mean they’re universally savvy with it,” he said. “Educators should show specific Web sites in class and talk about why a source is or isn’t credible.”

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