The impact of generative AI on online searching

Generative AI seems to be rapidly taking over so many functions. In this post I explore how we can make use of it as an online research tool and consider its impact on online searching.

image shows a screen with a pressing the search icon
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What was the last thing you searched for online? Why were you looking for it?

An easy question to answer?

The question in this prompt got me wondering how ubiquitous online searches are. Is it possible to search on the internet today without realising that’s what we’re doing? For me, it seems to have become so much a part of our lives. I use Google or Bing so much – for work (for information for teaching, for ideas) and in personal use. Being a curious person, I’m always wondering about something so Google is a constant friend that answers all my questions. I research online so much now that its become normal and to answer the prompt I really had to think. And my pondering led to more questions.

Leading to more questions

Writing my outline plan for this response, I found I was jotting down questions about the nature of online searching. Most people should be aware of the expansion of generative AI (I even checked in with google to confirm I have the right term). I guess I have the answer to my question. The last thing I searched for online was “generative AI”. I was wondering whether using adaptive AI to answer questions is a form of searching as you’re unlikely to look at lots of different results. Generative AI gives you the answer, therefore is it a search?

This made me question whether the way we look for information is changing? Is the end of online searches is on the horizon.

How we research today

image shows robot researching online
Image by Lukas from Pixabay

Writing the notes for this post, the last search that came to mind wasn’t a search; I used generative AI. I was in class and I had the students doing online searches looking for appropriate job adverts for accountancy students. I wasn’t sure what level of jobs would be best for them, so I asked Bing, which uses ChatGPT. Previously, I would have used Google or another search engine and reviewed lots of answers. However, as I am exploring the use of AI in my teaching practice, this seemed like a good opportunity. The answer it gave me was acceptable and I didn’t feel it was necessary to conduct further research.

I can see how we could adapt to using AI more in research, but we need to be aware of its limitations. Can we classify adaptive AI as a form of online searching? If searching means investigating different sources to gather information, assessing the quality and reliability of individual pieces, then on its own, no it can’t be a form of internet research. However, if its used as a starting point to signpost additional research then yes it can be.

My concern is that many will rely on generative AI without exploring further, so they will not develop sound research skills.

Is there an answer?

Clearly I can answer the basic question for the prompt. The last thing I searched for online was to check I had the right term: generative AI. However, with the rise in the use of AI, we need to redefine what we mean by “online search”. Using ChatGPT, or its equivalents, to answer our questions removes the need for online searches. That said, we will need to develop new skills as we learn how to use generative AI to produce the best results.


  1. “My concern is that many will rely on adaptive AI without exploring further, so they will not develop sound research skills.”
    I agree as it is evident in the classrooms amongst many learners and I speak of young learners who should not have this available to them…just yet.

    a great share🤍

  2. It takes a lot of practice to learn and use reliable sources for good research that will lead to factual data and reliable results. I have held onto those lessons from college and am not very trusting of most of the information that pops up in online searches in general. I think many will go with the first few results- rather AI generated on something else. No one wants to dig, but wants instant answers which can turn out to be false or inaccurate. Right now I’m not sure AI will help.

    • I agree completely and was teaching a class yesterday on evidence based practice. If youre using AI it’s important to define quite specific parameters. But even with that I’m only using it which subjects I’m familiar/comfortable with so I can assess its accuracy

      • I think that’s key Brenda, in what you teach your students and that has to start earlier than what most of us every experienced when in our own school settings. My 6th grade granddaughter has a required technology class where I hope this is being taught and then incorporated into all her classes.

      • Youre so right. They need to have this knowledge long before they get to me. Its teaching adults how to do these things too

  3. I didn’t know that bing uses ChatGPT, I always use google, maybe because it’s nicer. I will start using it, to see the results. I agree with you that we shouldn’t rely only on adaptive AI. Interesting post, Brenda!

    • Bing uses ChatGPT. I’ve not tried Bard at all but I have found errors when ChatGPT was tasked with preparing a handout for me. I was going to use it as an exercise with the class – show them its Important to check the information and get them to find and correct the mistakes.

      I suspect I’ll use AI for classroom work. It’s been great at writing case studies for me, so time saving, but I dont think I’d use it for my own writing.

      • So as it stands, one can’t be 100% sure about the accuracy of ChatGpt.
        The free version says it was last updated in Sept 2021.
        So the accuracy of results must be 2 years behind.
        Maybe the paid version is better?
        As you said, for quick preparation of topics ChatGpt may guide to some extent.
        I understand Bard is a better version of Google search.

      • I’m still experimenting … and kind of in the novelty stage … getting it to write lesson plans .. it then suggests issuing handouts etc … so I tell it to do that too. Much quicker than the 90 mins I’ve been planning for so far for a 2 hour class.

  4. I’ve not used ChatGPT for research, as I always (out of habit) go to Google, Brenda.

    My last search was how to replace an ink cartridge in an HP Envy 7200 printer. I was amazed that I had to scroll down the page to find the correct answer, as the first lot of results were for other printers. Then I saw that most of the results at the top of the page were ad related, so they’d paid Google to be listed first (even though they did not relate to the model of printer I’d entered). I wonder if ChatGPT will start charging soon for doing research?

    • An interesting question Hugh. I think/hope they’d need to be more accurate and reliable first.
      Interestingly, looking at the assessment questions for my class I have tomorrow, one is about the impact of AI on the world of employment

      • I’ve already seen some charging, Brenda. I was looking for a logo for my blog and thought I’d try ChatGPT, but I had to buy credits. needless to say, I didn’t.

        I wonder if CharGPT will fill in job applications? I guess somebody could ask any questions on the form and get a response from ChatGPT.

  5. It’s very important to know us humans make errors and AI will slowly take over the world and we will rely on it like we do our modern day technology

  6. By losing those sound research skills, do we also lose the critical thinking that goes along with it? Do we just take everything we are told at face value? Considering the sheer amount of mis-information that is out there, this concerns me.

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