Report Writing Takes on a New Angle

Almost quietly, Google rolled out a new feature to document creation in Google Drive. 

It’s a feature that everyone who uses documents created with Google Drive needs to be aware of.  It could be big or it could be problematic.  Big, because it does something that we’ve always done and hope to have our students do properly, and problematic because without adequate awareness, it could be your worst nightmare.

The feature is the "Research" option available when you create a Word Processing document.  It’s available from the Tools menu item.

Selecting "Research" opens a research panel on the right of the screen.  The research panel gives you instant access to Google Search where you can search the web, search images, or search quotes.

Now, the concept of search as research is something that we’ve hoped to teach as a skill for quite some time now.  Typically, it’s been a task that’s done in another tab where you may research and report or research and copy/paste.  Now, it’s right in your face (or your students’ faces) as they create the document.  Of real functionality, are the images and quotes options.  The results are right there and just a click away from automatic insertion into the document being created.

Where do the results come from?  From Google Search, of course.  Therein lies part of what could be problematic.

What about a search using Bing?  Or, DuckDuckGo?  Or, KnowledgeOntario?  These options are still available using the conventional open a new tab option but, darn, that’s so convenient to have them available right in the document creation.

So, in my research on "house", I’m able to quickly bring in a quotation and an image.  The import is also good enough to create footnotes for me.

Other than the fact that "Research" really makes this a total Google environment, there are some concerns that need to be addressed.

  • Do you require APA format?  Is Google’s footnoting going to create a discussion point with students? 
  • The image search returns results from anywhere.  How do you address copyright issues again?
  • Are results from the research panel going to go through the same level of critical thinking that traditional research does?

These are not insurmountable concerns but you’ll need to know this going in because, for those of you who are progressive and are using Google Drive Documents, this feature is available right now.  Are you ready to deal with it with your students?

If you aren’t aware of the functionality, log into Google Drive, create a new Document and select Research from the Tools menu.  It is S-L-I-C-K.  How will you deal with this with your students?

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OTR Links 05/20/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.