Of camels, cud & content

Research does not mean Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V

Reading up on how “clever” search engines have become because of artificial intelligence I realized our lives have become much more easier because of such progress. Search engines are now being coded to understand our intent even.

But this post is not about the sophistication of search engines. Or, is it? I call attention to one of the confusions that persists in the world of content because of search engines - over search and research. The muddle exists at either end of the supply chain - the client as well as the content provider.

If you really gave it a thought, you would understand that it`s not so complicated. It can, in fact, be explained by this oft-used, rather simplistic explanation (you will soon know why I say “simplistic”) - search is when you are looking for something; research is when you are examining something. Search was a real world activity, like finding lost car keys, or some such till the World Wide Web and the Internet came along.

Before search went online, the meaning and context of research was fairly well understood. It meant an investigation. It meant you had to probe, examine, conclude. When search engines came, things got mixed up.

Let me pause here to say, this post is not an advisory on the best way to conduct search or even research online.

So here`s the deal: as a content client, you need to have a clear understanding - are you about to farm out a search or a research brief? I will tell you this - experience shows that 90% of the times you are looking for someone to search. Unless you are an academic body like a university, a think tank, a marketing or finance firm, one of those trade representative bodies or maybe a not-for-profit, it`s search that you want.

If, indeed, it`s research you are required to do, then an online tool like a search engine serves as just one more instrument of exploration in your journey. Another could be access online to a collection of libraries around a common theme, perhaps. A third could be previously published research papers. Much of the real world content, old and new, is now digitized, and can be recalled on your computer by keying in search words, or like I indicated at the start of this post, simply speaking certain words aloud to your digital assistant, so sophisticated have search engines become.

Research does not mean Ctrl C and Ctrl V. As a content provider, you cannot pat your self for a job well-done if it merely means “copy/paste/write” matter spewed out by some search engine. Even if it involves extensive re-writing. That is not research. At best, you have found success in retrieving digitized information, some popular, some not so, maybe by some clever coupling of keywords, and by an even cleverer manipulation of the original content.

But look at it this way - all you have done is ingest and ruminate much like a camel - what went in did not come out in the same shape or original texture; it may have changed form, but in the end, it is still chewed up cud.

Research = fodder for thought.


Image Credit: AlexeyZakakurin