“I can’t find anything!” is usually the response from one of my English Composition students when I ask if anyone has questions about their research projects. Normally, other students nod their heads in agreement and complain that they were having the same problems. “Why can’t we use Google? I can’t find any information on the library databases!” complains another. Even though I can identify with their frustration, I typically respond that they would not be able to use Google because it isn’t effective academic research but then offer tips on how to find information in the library databases.
One tip is to remember that Google is matching but the databases are for research. Since its introduction in the late 1990s, Google has simplified information gathering. We can find just about anything, good or bad, legal, or illegal, moral, and immoral in it within seconds. For example, when you look for something or someone on Google, you are most likely going to effortlessly find an exact match. Research, on the other hand, might require repeatedly looking at more than one database and comparing results to find something that is useful.
Despite my explanation, students continue to say that the databases didn’t have any information about their research topics (even though the databases have thousands of articles). But because the information they found on the databases didn’t match exactly what they were looking for, students conclude it didn’t work. Trying to help them get past their frustration while learning a new research technique, I also share with them that they have to change their mindset about what the databases could do.
After going into the databases and showing students how to change their search terms and find information in the databases, they realize that not only was the information there, in most cases, it was more accurate and helpful than what they found on Google or Wikipedia.
Not only has Google exposed us to more information, I think it has also made us more impatient and less willing to accept things, people or situations that aren’t exactly what we want. After all, Google generally gives exact (or remarkably close) search results. With these kinds of results, I think Google has trained us to believe that we will always get what we want or something close to it when we ask for it.
And for some of us (me included!), we go to God with a similar attitude. In that past, I’ve written about how dangerous it is to think this way because we end up treating God like Google! If I pray this specific kind of prayer, then I’m going to get these specific results. When we don’t, we have the nerve to get mad at God! However, James 4:3 explains, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Sometimes, it’s not what you pray, but the attitude you have when you pray (in other words, HOW you pray) that determines your results.