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.
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
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.