Gone are the days when effort was required for research, even for more simple questions. Almost habitually when the slightest curiosity is aroused one turns to a Google search to find answers. Academics however, often need sources that are regarded as more credible than what may appear on a common search engine. When this is the case they will turn to databases of academic journals, such as the EBSCO American Premier Search. Toanalyze the differences between content from a Google search and an EBSCO search, the following phrase was searched. “Privacy and Security on the Internet.” After cursory examination into the Google results, and a slightly more in-depth analysis of the EBSCO results it became evident that bias existed in both but was more deceptive in the journal results because the articles are veiled behind the aura of credibility and peer review.
The consensus found after reviewing both the Cornell University Library and New Mexico University Library’s criteria for evaluating sources, seems to suggest that the most that the researcher should evaluate for in a potential source is accuracy, authority, objectivity, and currency. Most of these, are difficult to discern. By its very nature, a peer review system, such as those in an academic journal, only obscures objectivity and even accuracy. There is no protection in such a system from a group that shares a common bias; this bias is more difficult to perceive, given the reputation established for academic credentials.
Results on Google have a less pretext of objectivity. In fact, they were not shy about posting contradictions often in the same body of reading. For example, Staysafeonline.org stated at the top of an article that the internet should be made more inclusive, but in the conclusion argued for the censorship of opinions that are considered offensive. Another site while portraying an apparent interest in the safety of the consumer, had a product to sell. The objectivity was thus transparently compromised. The accuracy of statistics and facts presented, were backed up by valid sources.
Glancing at the titles of the results on the EBSCO servers, the subject matter was mixed in with an odd variance of what could be considered political concepts. One journal even claimed, “digital colonialism, “and is not possible to argue such concepts without an inherent bias and lack of objectivity. Another journal titled, “Regulating the Internet of Things: First Steps Toward Managing Discrimination, Privacy, Security, and Consent,” by Scott R. Peppet, tackled more issues that fall within the realm of politics.
The reader should beware of any source and rely more on his or her own use of logic and reasoning as opposed to merely taking any source at face value. Even more discernment and evaluation are required for academic sources from peer reviewed journals. The danger with these is the tendency to put far too much trust in them, despite the seeming consensus from other academics, as the consensus could simply be symptomatic of group bias. Reader beware and proceed with caution.
Don’t forget to check out my podcast!