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.