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Students trust high Google search rankings too much

As seasoned internet veterans know, just because a site shows up high on Google’s search rankings doesn’t mean it’s the most credible source on a topic. But that bit of wisdom apparently has not made it all the way down to the current generation of college students, Ars Technica reports. According to research out of Northwestern University, students barely care about who or what is showing up when they click on that top link—a behavior that undoubtedly affects their quality of research when doing schoolwork. The researchers observed 102 college freshmen performing searches on a computer for specific information. Most students clicked on the first search result no matter what it was, and more than a quarter of respondents said explicitly that they chose it because it was the first result. Only 10 percent of the participants mentioned the author or author’s credentials when performing their research, and according to screen captures of those students, “none actually followed through by verifying either the identification or the qualifications of the authors.” Students did acknowledge that certain web sites—mostly those ending in .gov, .edu—were more credible than others because they weren’t written by “just anybody.” However, some felt the same way about .org sites and were unaware that .org domains could be sold to anyone (and therefore have about the same credibility as any .com out there)…

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