Research is important for a lot of reasons. I work as a writer, so I conduct research on almost a daily basis for my work. But there are a lot of other types of research people conduct on a regular basis. For example, many people do genealogy research (digging into their family history). Others research health issues they may suffer from. Students research for school projects and papers. And sometimes we just research the world around us by staying on top of current events.
Technological advances have made much of this research easier over the years. But did you realize that sometimes technology actually gets in the way? Let’s take a look at both the positive things technology brings to researchers and how sometimes it causes problems when we’re looking for accurate information.
How Technology Makes Research Easier
- There is instant access to information on the Web when we would otherwise have to visit libraries or purchase research materials.
- There is also more information at our disposal thanks to the Web.
- Improved communication tools like the telephone, email, and social networks make it easier to get in touch with expert sources when we need to research information in their specialty areas.
- Improvements in search technology allow us to almost instantly find specific information in digital documents as opposed to having to manually browse numerous books and documents for the information we really need.
- The greater availability of information thanks to technology not only gives us more sources, but it also can sometimes make it easier to confirm or disprove information we find in an initial source.
How Technology Sometimes Gets in the Way
- The sheer number of sources available online today can also cause problems by leading to more “noise” — irrelevant information we have to sort through or bypass to get to the facts.
- The growth in social media more specifically can cause problems when it comes to research because it has become very easy to share information. That means anyone can publish something claiming it is factual (even if it isn’t). And it also means people can blindly retweet, email, or otherwise share that misinformation with others as though it were fact.
- The Web also makes it easier for people to portray themselves as experts in a specific subject area, even if their research or experience is questionable or considered inaccurate by the larger professional community. This makes it more important than ever to research the “experts” you choose to use as sources before you actually research what they have to say.
Overall, the Web and other forms of technological advances have done wonders for researchers. But technology is not a cure-all. It’s wonderful that we can access so many sources of information freely and instantly, and that we can share what we find with others so quickly and easily. Just remember that with that easy of access to information comes greater responsibility for filtering it and checking your sources.
How have changes in technology affected you and the types of research you most often do? How do you sort through the increased noise to find the most reputable information you can? Share your tips and stories in the comments below.