Google vs. the Library: Student Preferences and Perceptions When Doing Research Using Google and a Federated Search Tool


Federated searching was once touted as the library world’s answer to Google, but ten years since federated searching technology’s inception, how does it actually compare? This study focuses on undergraduate student preferences and perceptions when doing research using both Google and a federated search tool. Students were asked about their preferences using each search tool and the perceived relevance of the sources they found using each search tool. Students were also asked to self-assess their online searching skills. The findings show that students believe they possess strong searching skills, are able to find relevant sources using both search tools, but actually prefer the federated search tool to Google for doing research. Thus, despite federated searching’s limitations, students see the need for it, libraries should continue to offer federated search (especially if a discovery search tool is not available), and librarians should focus on teaching students how to use federated search and Google more effectively.