In Search of Edward Drinker Cope: Doing College Research Using Google.byMark D. PuterbaughAlternative Title:Doing College Using GoogleAbstract:There is growing evidence that Google is the bibliographic search tool of choice by manyscience researchers. A series of queries determined whether the search engines fromGoogle.com could produce enough full-text academic results for a first year college studentto write a research paper for class. The items returned were of a quality allowing a studentto by-pass the library and the librarians in order to produce an acceptable freshman collegeresearch paper.Keywords:Google, Google Books, Google Scholar, college research, bibliographic research, digitallibraries, e-books,Author: Mark D. Puterbaugh is the Information Services Librarian at the Warner MemorialLibrary, Eastern University, 1300 Eagle Rd., St. Davids, PA 19087.Introduction: Eastern University is a small liberal arts institution with a learning community justunder 4,000. Traditionally, bibliographic instruction presented to incoming students atWarner Memorial Library has steered young learners away from using Google as theirprimary tool for research. During instructional sessions librarians emphasized resourceslike EBSCOhost, JSTOR or WilsonWeb, the library’s selection of subscription databases. It is
2there that students find the peer-reviewed journals and other scholarly informationneeded during their academic careers. In a recent presentation to the faculty, the librarians stood aghast when one facultymember revealed that she used Google Scholar first before she searched the library’sresources. And to shock the librarians further, she was not the only one who acknowledgedthis practice. “When working on class assignments more and more students now first turn toGoogle, Amazon, and Yahoo to locate information instead of the library catalog or awebsite.” 1 Surprisingly, there is growing evidence that Google is, also, the research tool ofchoice for many professionals, particularly in the sciences. The fact is that those needingthe very best information in life or death situations, physicians, now regularly turn toGoogle for answers. 2 In a recent letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, a New York rheumatologist describes a scene at rounds where a professor asked the presenting fellow to explain how he arrived at his diagnosis. Matter of factly, the reply came: “I entered the salient features into Google, and [the diagnosis] popped right up.” The attending doctor was taken aback by the Google diagnosis. “Are we physicians no longer needed? Is an observer who can accurately select the findings to be entered in a Google search all we need for a diagnosis to appear—as if by magic?” In a post-Google world, where evidence based education is headed is anyone’s guess. Googling your diagnosis; Googling your treatment—where is all this leading us? 3
3 The complimentary question is asked where is this leading the library? Where dolibrarians fit into this new information economy? Will there be a need for libraries in aworld where simply typing a few keywords into a search form returns a stream of relevantinformation?Background: In an article entitled, “Accidental Epipen® injection into a digit – the value of aGoogle search”, there is a story of a 10 year-old male patient who accidentally injected hishand with epinephrine. Complications concerning the use of the patients left thumbensued. The physicians in the case consulted the “general surgical team contacted twoconsultant vascular surgeons, the anesthetic, pediatric and A&E registrars in the localinstitution, and registrars in vascular surgery and pediatrics at Great Ormond StreetHospital”. 4 With no results from their queries the physicians turned to the Internet, where …. a literature search was carried out on PubMed using the following key words: ‘pediatric’,’ digital artery’, ‘epinephrine injection’. No citations were found. Following this, a search was performed using the Internet search engine Google. Within 0.1s an article was identified entitled Accidental injection of epinephrine by a child: a unique approach to treatment. A full-text version of the article was available on the website. It described a case of a 9-year-old girl who attended a Canadian emergency department with an identical clinical problem. 4 The authors of the article argued that the presence of a free Internet connection inthe hospital was of great importance. They wrote, “A broad search engine such as Google
4can be an invaluable tool in finding important clinical information rapidly.” 4 Here wasanother example of physicians using Google for diagnosis and treatment. The questionarose if the physicians had consulted a librarian would they have eliminated the initialsteps of consulting other physicians or searching PubMed? Or was this an example thatdemonstrated the library could be by-passed entirely? Google, as a bibliographic tool, is making an impact in the research literature. APubMed search, conducted on August 13th, 2010, looked for the word “Google” in the titleand abstract. The search returned 1158 hits. A second search combined “Google” in the titleand abstract with the keywords “medical research”, it returned 207 hits. An, additional,search in Elsevier’s science information search engine, SCIRUS, returned over 25,000 hitsto a title search using the terms “Google” and “research”. The results list in both instancesrevealed many articles that confirmed the use of Google based queries in the biomedical,physical and social sciences. Most of the articles listed appeared to discuss searches thatwere highly specific in nature. The researchers knew exactly what they sought, theyeliminated the hit and miss strategies of the average seeker. Additionally, like the search for the accidental epinephrine injection, in manyarticles there was no clear indication in the text whether the information retrieved wasfreely accessible or part of a subscription service available through the searchersinstitution. Was Google retrieving information otherwise unavailable or retrieving from anavailable subscription resource that the researches did not know how to access? This is animportant distinction, begging the question about consulting a librarian. If this were thecase, Google’s ability to retrieve relevant information would not diminish; the question
5would be could Google stand on its own without the aid of any campus library resource. The specific question posed in this article; does Google have access to the resourcesfor a freshman college student to write a research paper? Could it compete withsubscription services like EBSCOhost or WilsonWeb? The assumption was that a freshmanpaper would be the minimum academic level that required verifiable scholarly or peer-reviewed sources. Could a college freshman write an acceptable research paper solelythrough Google searches, bypassing the library and the librarians? Eastern University, like many schools, has a requirement that first year studentstake a college-writing course, an introduction to research and writing at the college level.Traditionally the student produced a paper where they had to use and properly citeinformation from scholarly books, peer-reviewed journals and websites of academic value.Google would be tested to produce the materials needed to produce this first paper.Methodology: The methodology was very simple, approach the Google.com services as a student inthe college-writing course would. The type of query used was a simple keyword search.The research focused on a person, Edward Drinker Cope, prominent 19th centurypaleontologist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Cope was a recognized scientist inhis day, possibly he was obscure enough to present a challenge to Google’s retrieval andrelevancy ranking algorithms. By researching Cope’s life, the idea was to have a topic thatplayed to the demonstrated strengths of the search engine, access to scientific literature,while challenging the usefulness for historical and biographical research. Conducted in Google.com, Google Scholar and Google Books, the searches used only
6the name Edward Drinker Cope without quotation marks. An additional assumption wasthat students would know something about the limiters on the Google advanced searchform. Therefore, separate searches used the available limiters. Finally, only the first twopages of the results lists were consulted. It was a “quick and dirty search”, an attemptedemulation of the standard procedure of over-stressed freshmen students in a rush toretrieve pertinent information before a classroom deadline.Limitations: There was a major advantage having a librarian conduct the research. Additionally,the librarian possessed knowledge of the life and work of Edward Drinker Cope. He workedclosely with the staff of the Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences over several years,as a dinosaur docent. Cope’s work, much of it accomplished through the Academy made hisstory known there even to this day. It is enough to say that a librarian with knowledge ofthe matter viewed the result lists far differently than the average first year student. Tosome this knowledge will weaken the conclusions drawn. However, understanding thematerial provided a gauge to evaluate the relevancy of the items returned by the Googlesearches.Discussion – A Google.com Search: The first key word search conducted used Google.com, without the limiters. Thesearch returned over 49,000 hits in 0.33 seconds. Listed first on the results was an articlefound in Wikipedia. While most professors would cringe seeing Wikipedia on a consultedsites list, the article was an excellent reference source providing many reliable details andsources; it even listed a link to digital version of Cope’s death certificate. For the necessary
7background discovery phase the Wikipedia article was a treasure. Furthermore, the results list yielded a profile of Cope from the Niagara FallsMuseum, a brief sketch of the paleontologist’s contributions from Berkley’s Evolution Pageswebsite, an article from Britannica Online and another from the public domain 1911Encyclopedia Britannica. Additionally, the search returned an interesting hit from theQuaker and Special Collections website at Haverford College in Haverford, PA. Cope taughtat the College, many of his letters and papers are in the college’s special collections.Haverford holds papers not only from Edward Drinker Cope, but also from his colleagues,friends and family. This special collection was potentially a treasury of primary resourcesfor more in-depth research. This first search provided excellent reference material and background information.It was the type of data necessary for a student to begin a research project. It also provideddirection to a major resource for more intense research.Advanced Google Search Using .edu and .gov Limiters: The next search used the .edu limiter and returned 520 hits in 0.31 seconds. Onevery interesting resource stood out from the rest, Yale University’s Digital Image Database.Yale was the academic home of Cope’s chief professional rival, Othniel C. Marsh. Historyknows this rivalry as the “dinosaur wars.” The Image Database contained scanned imagesof correspondence between Cope and Marsh. The adversarial relationship did much toshape the face of 19th Century American paleontology. This would be an important resourcefor anyone interested in Cope’s life. Also found among the hits was a transcript from anNPR radio broadcast The Engines of Our Ingenuity. Episode 1970
8(http://uh.edu/engines/epi1970.htm) presented the contributions made by Marsh andCope to 19th paleontology. It included an excellent short list of suggested readings. When coupled with the .pdf limiter the search brought together 146 documents in0.43 seconds. The first hit on the list was the Biographical Memoir of Edward Drinker Cope1840-1897 by Henry Fairfield Osborn. The writing produced by the National Academy ofSciences upon Cope’s death provides 194 pages on his life and contributions. Written by aformer student and Princeton scientist, the memoir presents a treasure for any researcher.Additionally, on the results list there were a number of other secondary resourcesdiscussing the contributions of Cope to the fields of biology and paleontology. A superbbooklet entitled Darwinism at Penn was written by University of Pennsylvaniamicrobiologist Howard Goldfine in celebration of the 150 anniversary of the publication ofThe Origin of Species. The work places Cope’s evolutionary theories in context with hiscontemporaries. The next search replaced .pdf with the .doc file type. The search returned 108results 0.32 seconds. Near the top of the list was the final draft of an article entitled“Historiography and the Cultural Study of Nineteenth-Century Biology” authored by RobertJ. Richards, Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at theUniversity of Chicago, an excellent article that alluded to the work of Cope and hiscontemporaries. Overall, the use of the .edu and the file type limiters returned excellent results. Theinformation would be useful to any college student. Finally, highly creditable individualscreated some of the materials retrieved through the queries.
9 Using the .gov limiter returned interesting results from the Library of Congress,National Registry of Historic Places and the National Park Services. The latter providedinformation about the Cope Houses, places where the paleontologist lived. These includedimages and physical descriptions of the properties. Adding the limiter .pdf brought reportsfrom the Bureau of Land Management, including a history of paleontology in Montana thatmentioned Cope’s death defying expedition when camped near the Sioux Nation shortlyafter the Little Bighorn massacre. While not providing the same richness in results thatthe .edu presented, .gov as a limiter exposed some fascinating reference materials.Searching Google Scholar: The initial search in Google Scholar produced an interesting mix of citations. At thetop of the first page of the results list were four books written by Cope. These are importanttexts. However, in this search journal articles were the primary focus. Further down on Google Scholar’s results list there were several citations from thedatabase JSTOR. The older full-text of the articles were accessed through the campusnetwork from Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society and from the AmericanNaturalist. To see if there were any free full-text articles available the Advanced Search formwas used and date limiters were applied. The search was for articles written in the last 10years. Two recent articles written about Cope’s Rule were freely available from the openaccess Journal of Evolutionary Biology. “Copes rule states that population lineages tend toincrease in body size over evolutionary time.“5 Following the related articles link broughtup additional current discussions concerning Cope’s Rule. This led to a collection of articles
10from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. Google Scholar provided many quality citations, including primary resourceswritten by Cope. It also provided full-text articles and links to additional articles currentdiscussion of the paleontologist’s enduring contribution to evolutionary science. In contrast, a search using Edward Drinker Cope of the University’s JSTORsubscription returned 155 full-text hits from a variety of scholarly publications. However,most were either book reviews or older materials regarding Cope’s work. Many of thereturns were irrelevant referring to alcoholism. A linkage between the use of Cope’s nameand Cope’s Rule did not appear. However, when searching Cope’s Rule, Google Scholarretrieved over 400 citations and full-text articles. As a discovery tool, Google Scholar, in thisinstance, went beyond a subscription database.Searching Google Books: What of value was there in a collection of a few million electronic books? The initialsearch returned over 24,000 hits. Limiting to “Full view” returned over 15,000 items. At thetop of both results lists was a book by Cope entitled The Origin of the Fittest: Essays onEvolution. The Origin is a collection of essays representative of his thoughts as the leadingproponent of neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theory. The 20 essays were selected by Copeand range from highly technically to more popular writings that presented decades ofpaleontological labors. For the student seriously interested in Cope’s life and work, thiswas another treasure chest of information. The Primary Factors Of Organic Evolution was second on both results list. The workpresented a clear and systematic presentation of Cope’s view of evolution within a
11framework of paleontological evidence forwarded by his peers and contemporaries. Thiswas another treasure for a researcher who wanted to delve into Cope’s work and theories. Next on the list was the Syllabus Of Lectures On The Vertebrata. Publishedposthumously, the work contains the authors’ mature views on the evolution of vertebrata.Included in the work was an essay “The Life And Works Of Cope Illustrating The Training OfA Naturalist And The Essential Characteristics Of A Great Comparative Anatomis” written byHenry Fairfield Osborn. This biographical sketch provided information regarding theCope’s character and a short history of the contributions that he made to science. The first 2 results pages of the Google Books search returned 17 books written byEdward Drinker Cope. There were also items written about Cope by contemporaries, thisincluded a memoriam written in The American Geologist August 1900 on the “Life andLetters of Edward Drinker Cope”. Additionally a review of his contributions came from theProceedings of the American Philosophical Society in a series of presentations on Cope’saccomplishments compiled by his academic peers. Going beyond the first 2 results pages presented writings that mentioned andcriticized Cope’s work. A pantheon of 19th century giants in evolutionary andpaleontological studies authored most of the results. The names included Alfred RussellWallace, Joseph Leidy, Othniel Marsh and Louis Agassiz.Conclusions: Can a student using resources found through Google.com retrieve enough materialof academic quality to write an acceptable research paper? Based on the results of thisexperiment the answer is an affirmative.
12 The search conducted through Google.com, Google Scholar and Google Booksreturned a plethora of excellent academic resources. Firstly, there were primary resources,full-text editions of original writings from a variety of key publications representing Cope’swork and thought. Secondly, there were illustrative secondary resources, biographicalsketches, memorials, critical reviews and commentary by Cope’s peers andcontemporaries. In Google Scholar, there were citations from historic and recent journalarticles and book reviews of publications regarding Cope’s life and work. Additionally,Scholar provided links to the open access full-text articles of contemporary discussion ofCope’s Rule, the paleontologist’s most enduring contribution to evolutionary science. Whatmore would a student need to write a paper about the life, work and contributions ofEdward Drinker Cope? In this instance, the student has enough material to write a verygood paper, bypassing the library and the librarians. We must emphasize, “in thisinstance”. This experiment may not hold true in every instance. However, if the experimentholds true for even five percent of the students searching Google, the implications for theprofession are alarming. “Information abundance means that students and faculty have options. In the past,many had no choice but to use their campus library. Furthermore, there was a degree ofcoercion behind students use of the library, which guaranteed a level of success. In todaysenvironment academic libraries must compete for the attention of their users -- a counter-intuitive attitude to an organization that has traditionally held a monopolistic positionwithin the academy.” 6 Google represents only a fraction of the resources available outsidethe library and away from the librarians. Today’s college student has an enormous amount
13of information at hand. Beyond Google, there are an institution’s electronic collections,EBSCOhost, JSTOR and eBrary, that deliver tens of thousands of e-books and e-journalsfrom the library’s website to the student’s desktop. It should come as no surprise that atmany institutions the on-line collections outnumber paper collections. Additionally, itwould be no surprise to observe that in many instances the electronic collections are muchmore current. Maybe all this is stating the obvious? In some disciplines, a student need never enter the library to use a large proportionof the librarys collection. The building at the center of campus is less important. Libraryshelves are disappearing replaced by computer workstations or social spaces. Institutionsnow redefine libraries as “learning commons” and librarians as “information specialists”. Itmay be that soon the presence of old, aging book collections, and the traditional librarianwill be detrimental to the image of the university. “The stereotype of the librarian as"gatekeeper" is now largely false. Researchers and teaching faculty are in a position to be asor more knowledgeable about the collection than their counterparts in the library. Stayingaware of current trends in scholarship and scholarly communication requires moreattention than in the past as both are changing rapidly. While this can easily beaccomplished through RSS feeds, alert services and scholarly blogs none of these requireclose proximity to physical collections.” 6 There has been a reassessment of the library’s status in the university. The abilityto deliver books and journals to the desktop has always been a challenge to the library’splace on campus. However, the rate of innovation has changed the library’s place in theacademy much too quickly. “The speed of these changes has left many libraries grasping for
14ways to redirect their employees. How do you create a high tech information servicesorganization with low tech positions and staff with varying degrees of computer literacy?”6In many disciplines, referring to the bookish librarian is an archaism. The little experiment presented above provides a small example but a largechallenge. The profession must meet the challenge to survive. The library must rethink andretool. The time is ripe for both to occur. ”With half of all librarians expected to retire in thenext decade, there is an opportunity to reshape the library staff in dramatic fashion. To doso will require strong leadership, clear goals and new organizational structures.” 6 In orderto survive, the library of the 21st century requires professionals who are tech savvy andcompetent in a digital world. To ignore the importance of the changes at hand will reducethe academic library to a meeting place and the librarians’ office real estate for theplacement of university administrative services. “The trend-line is clear and the shift to adigital environment has tremendous momentum. Libraries cannot afford to wait until thesmoke has cleared and the digital revolution is complete to take action.” 6
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