THE ACA­DEMIC

Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW -

Pro­fes­sor Deb­o­rah Levy is head of the prop­erty de­part­ment at Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land’s busi­ness school.

Re­search be­fore Google re­volved around go­ing to the li­brary — it was so man­ual and time in­ten­sive.

You would look up a jour­nal ar­ti­cle, take notes by hand or pho­to­copy it (and if you didn’t read it fast enough the print would start to rub off!).

Books played a much big­ger role — you would look them up in the old wooden cat­a­logue draw­ers with their in­dex cards, and track back through the list of ref­er­ences or bib­li­og­ra­phy to other books and ar­ti­cles.

I have a photo of me fin­ish­ing my Mas­ters on my Ap­ple Mac in 1990, with my baby boy, Sam, on my back.

I re­mem­ber we had to us e floppy disk s to trans­fer in­for­ma­tion be­tween com­put­ers — no email or mem­ory sticks back then.

Google and the dig­i­tal age has made it both eas­ier and harder to be an aca­demic re­searcher.

Eas­ier be­cause you can put in a few key­words and Google Scholar will in­stantly bring up maybe 10 dif­fer­ent ar­ti­cles, on dif­fer­ent as­pects of the topic and from dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, so you get a much broader, up-to-the-mo­ment over­view.

But that can work against you

— it means there’s nowhere to hide.

It’s not un­usual to sub­mit an ar­ti­cle to a jour­nal and have a re­viewer come back with this ob­scure ar­ti­cle that they’ve Googled and that you haven’t cov­ered.

You have to be that much more ex­plicit about the spe­cific scope of your work.

It has also changed the na­ture of the men­tal work.

Gone is that im­age of the aca­demic sit­ting in the sun read­ing a book and pon­der­ing on it; now you have to scan it and get onto the next thing.

You do a lot more skim­ming and have to very quickly as­sess the qual­ity and rel­e­vance of ma­te­rial — there’s a huge em­pha­sis on keep­ing up, keep­ing across things.

You have to work harder to ring-fence time for let­ting ideas per­co­late and re­ally de­vel­op­ing your ar­gu­ments.

Deb­o­rah Levy with Sam and her Mac in 1990.

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