back to article Brighton professor bans Google

The professor of media studies at the University of Brighton has had enough of students turning in "banal and mediocre work" and decided that Google and Wikipedia must go. Tara Brabazon provides her students with a reading list, of books, and expects their work to reference those works, rather than a rehash of a Wikipedia …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "While we applaud her call for students to learn "the interpretative skills first before we teach them the technological skills", nothing offers a range of information to be interpreted better than a Google search."

    Tshh, is that a google They've got a reading list that I'm quite sure is many times better then the first ten hits on google. Those books and likely sites shall have bibliographies, so with effective use of a library I'm quite sure they'll be able to aquire far better information then just throwing terms into the googleshitengine. Maybe they'll pick up some real life research skills too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not wise

    People that don't know how to use the web need a lot more time to research stuff and are not exposed to as many points of view. Her student's won't be competitive professionals.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Nothing New..

    Most Universities tell there students that Google,

    Wikipedia etc aren't reliable sources, and that if they

    want to pass must use reliable sources, and usually given

    a reading list...

  4. matt

    I prefered the other approach

    I liked the Prof that got her students to work on a Wiki page for an assignment more.

    But this approach isnt really anything new. While at uni 2 years ago I was expected to work from the same books as every one else.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Good idea

    Run a media course and ban one of the biggest and newest form of media!

    So go back to (expensive) out of date books, just to do a degree course on how to work in Tesco's..

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Not actually the right solution

    While it is par for the course for a teacher to expect, and even impose, references from the material said teacher gives to the students, I do not think a blanket ban is the right answer.

    The proper way to approach the issue would be to teach students a strange and alien concept : "critical thought". This concept is quite radical and extremely difficult to grasp, and I therefor understand that, in search of efficiency, the professor resorted to a simple ban.

    But Google itself is not a bad tool, just as Wackypedia is actually an interesting resource in some domains - as long as you are wary of what you read.

    Then again, students will always be students. Why read a long, boring, technical book when you can get results with a 5-minute search ?

    I think Google needs a Schoogle section, where it scans school books and makes searches only on the contents of those books. Larry ? Sergey ? That'll be just $50 million - by check please.

  7. Richard

    Top 5 Search results on Google

    I wonder how many of those were sponsored results!!

    bloody pain in the ass those things are, almost entirely unrelated search results with no reference to what im looking for, but because some numpty has paid cash to Google they get top of the list

  8. Spleen

    Complicated issue? Not really

    I've seen this discussed elsewhere, and while Wikipedia is obviously useless as a source (though may be a good starting point), the question of Google is a bit more difficult.

    1. Searching the top 5 results on Google will obviously result in bland, similar essays.

    2. Using reading lists can also result in bland essays, and ones that are specifically tailored to the lecturer's viewpoint.

    3. Google allows students to search far more knowledge far quicker than an antiquated library system.

    4. Searching antiquated library systems rather than having everything handed to you on a green plate in 0.0001 seconds is arguably a rewarding skill in itself.

    Tricky issue, isn't it? Well, no. Not at all. She's a meeja studies lecturer. Whether her students spend five minutes on Google or five hours in the library, they'll still find nothing of intellectual value, nor will they write anything that adds to the sum of human knowledge. So it's all completely irrelevant.

    I think someone's having a "where did my life go so wrong" moment.

  9. Billy Goat Gruff

    Improve wikipedia as an exercise

    I, too, would be depressed if they were copying mediocre work from the web. But as a media studies professor I would expect a more media-friendly idea than banning, such as an exercise like 'take the current wikipedia entry' and the textbook and come up with a much better entry. Or find the top 5 google sites and point out where they are wrong, or what they are missing. Perhaps even create a defacto webpage on a subject that wikipedia can link to, or ends up at the top of google.

    Surely using google, and understanding it's limitations, is pretty important both for research and media studies?

    And if it ends up that google/wikipedia are improved by her class then would that be a bad thing?

  10. Dan


    The internet knows everything, surely it's just as reliable if what you read is filtered through a (hopefully developed) mesh of common sense. If they can't do that then why are they doing a degree in the first place?

    Admittedly it's no replacement for books but as pointed out previously books are expensive and quite often even the newest reading lists that are handed out are listing out of date books. Not to mention that quite a lot of books can be found on the net by various means anyway...

    This whole idea seems insane to me, i hope to hell it doesn't catch on....

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Schoogle... there is already...

    Google already has a specific one for 'scholars' which searches somewhat more scholarly literature rather than the generic claptrap of the interweb.

  12. Daniel
    Thumb Up

    Tara Brabazon?

    you couldn't make it up, could you?

  13. Steve

    @ Not wise

    "People that don't know how to use the web need a lot more time to research stuff and are not exposed to as many points of view. Her student's won't be competitive professionals."

    More likely they'll learn how to research properly and be *more* competitive. If they want to elevate Media Studies to the level of a degree subject (don't get me started on that), then they need to show that they have the research skills that are expected at that level of education. They do not require internet access to acheive that.

    However, I think a far better idea would be to ban the course from universities. Any course that needs to have the word "studies" in the title should not be a batchelor's degree.

  14. Andy


    I think you're missing the epistemological aspect of her ban here - she is not banning students from studying Wikipedia, but rather banning them from citing Wikipedia.

    I think rather that she is encouraging them to take a critical distance from the phenomena being studied, rather than engaging in an immersive study. This is significantly easier for undergraduate students to achieve because it places knowledge into a box.

    There are several problems with citing any encyclopedia (and not just Wikipedia). For example, the work is not an original source - it is an interpreted article based on original research. As such it is prone to the editorial decisions of the author(s).

    Wikipedia is often poorly referenced and if you cite an article from Wikipedia you do not actually know who are you citing. An anonymous 24 year old pretending to have a university degree? Or perhaps an unemployed housewife? Or maybe a recognized researcher who simply hasn't been credited properly in the article.

    Wikipedia is a useful tool to start an enquiry into a subject and generate suggested references. It should not replace a library search, a journal search, and other solid searches for information.

  15. Tony

    Yet another out of touch academic

    What a suprise!

    As an ex-student of Brighton University, all I can say is that some (not many I'll grant you) of the academics live in the real world, the rest walk around with their heads up their backsides. You choose which group Tara Brabazon belongs to!

  16. Daniel Bennett

    Not new at all..

    When I was in Year 11 at school they had blocked Google.

    Ok, we got round that by simply going onto the canadian google or Japanese google, but that didn't last long either...

  17. Paddy

    Back to the dark ages?

    I wonder if the professor would prefer all bibles to be in Latin too?

    Gleaning data from books is a skill that has to be learned. Gleaning facts from the internet is a different skill that also needs to be learned. The professor is right to mark down students who don't use the internet well but forcing them to not use the internet is a cop-out. Teach them how to use the internet well, or if you don't know how, get someone who does!

    There are a lot of bad books, as well as bad web pages. If a student contributed to a factual web page they would get some idea of how inaccuracies appear and can be fixed (or not), bias, ...

    Update your teaching rather than appearing as a Luddite.

  18. Duncan Hothersall

    Wikipedia fact-checked by the elderly?

    Yes please. If only.

  19. Writebaby

    Yes and No

    I am doing a doctorate in information security and while web resources are sometimes a useful starting place - especially when looking for bad boys code :-) - it is not a reliable resource for references. On average, any page on the web lasts around 6 months at most so any references you make to a web page could be out of date fairly rapidly. This is particularly true of Wikipedia entries and Google searches.

    So a ban is correct when expecting final work to be handed in. But this doesn't prevent starting with a Web based resource just to get your head around the basics of a subject. However, Wikipedia is down the bottom of the list. Try Citeseer or Mathsworld or some of the online libraries instead.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    5 marks, show all workings.

    Jack is standing in a carefully tended apple orchard. Each tree is groomed and guarded and heavy with just-ripe fruit. Every tree is cousin to the next, selected and bred for colour, flavour, and ease of storage. Wide cleared paths make reaching the immaculate fruit easy.

    Jill is standing in a copse of wild apple trees. The trees are tangled and twisted. Some trees are just fruiting, others are ripe while still more are overripe and rotting on the branches. Trees cross-pollinate and evolve, bearing green, red, yellow and mottled fruit in huge uneven clumps. Animals flit from tree to tree making their homes among the tangled branches and feasting on the hanging fruit. The air is sickly sweet with the smell of decay and fresh with the smell of new blossoms.

    Joseph has access to both stands of trees and guidance on navigating and harvesting each. He has been carefully trained to work with the orthodoxy and quality of the orchard, and the chaos and variety of the wild copse and taught how to compare one apple to another and weigh its quality..

    After 35 minutes, who will have learned the most about apples?

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Bravo professor

    Let's face a little reality here. Wikipedia is not up to research standard simply because their articles don't need to be true just verified ( which is not at all the same thing. We can all decide to say today is wednesday and verify it but that does not make it true (it's tuesday by the way).

    The ability to research properly (using tools like wiki and search eningines as well as other media) is an important skill for professional life and should not be undermined (or trashed) by laziness. Google and wikis are too easy to distort to be used (anywhere near) exclusively!

  22. Anonymous Coward


    She could just tell her students their time would be better spent working on a real degree instead of 'media studies'

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What a twattish thing to say.

    "...but if that media source is only fact-checked by the sick, the elderly and the under-employed..."

    Because as we know, the sick and the elderly have nothing to contribute to the sum of human knowledge do they?


  24. Ian

    /^[A-Z][a-z]+ studies$/ || /^[A-Z][a-z]+ology$/

    I've said, half seriously, to me kids that the offer of funding them through University so they emerge with no debt (ie the position my wife and I were offered by the state in the early 1980s) doesn't apply for subjects ending in `studies' or 'ology', or at any institution that obtained the right to grant degrees in its own right since the Wilson government.

    But Daddy, they said as we walked across our local (Russell Group) campus, what about biology? You're always saying that it may have been Rutherford's stamp collecting in the 1980s, but it's a real science now (and how sweet is it that an eleven year old can quote Rutherford's views on science?).

    At that very moment we turned a corner and saw that the erstwhile biology department is now proudly flagged as Biological Sciences. Boom, and indeed boom.

  25. Stuart Castle Silver badge


    "Run a media course and ban one of the biggest and newest form of media!

    So go back to (expensive) out of date books, just to do a degree course on how to work in Tesco's.."

    Just because it is big, and new, does not make it accurate or reliable.

    Text Books (old though they may be) are usually subjected to a peer review process that ensures accuracy. Wiki and Google have no guarantee of any such process.

    The problem with Wiki? Simple. As stated above, it has no peer review process. So, I could go on there and publish pretty much anything. Sure, it has an editorial system, but this isn't the same thing. The editors are not experts on every area Wiki covers, so anyone can post any info on there (correct or not) as long as they can make it look convincing. One example of this is a forum I manage has it's own Wiki entry detailing it's history. I (or one of the other mods) have to frequently edit the entry to remove the changes made by an ex-member who has a vendetta against us.

    The problem with Google? It indexes websites. Anyone can publish websites. I could publish a website giving a convincing argument on virtually any subject, regardless of how well I know it, and I know it'll be indexed by Google, and turn up on someone's google search.

    Research on new media is fine, as long as you verify anything you learn via new media elsewhere. In my experience, most students (and doing tech support in a Uni, I've met a few) don't bother with this.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Why not?

    Personally I do not find the initiative that bad.

    I guess by being prevented to refer directly to one source you are forced to correlate several results: it leads to better understanding usually... I say usually but then it depends on students themselves and their skills.

    After all this is all about: measure skills and teach a method, rather than filter sources out.

    I wonder how many results gave back a direct or indirect reference to Paris anyway...


  27. Andrew

    The interweb isn't going away

    Why do people imagine you can construct educational tasks as if the web is a passing phenomenon. We will be using Google or its successors for the rest of our lives. To attempt to educate people to live without it is simply daft.

    Sure, students need to develop critical skills - they shouldn't simply believe everything written in textbooks, either. But the lecturer's job is to nurture those skills, not to train students to live in an alternative universe without certain valuable information sources.

    I declare an interest: I write as a lecturer...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Not wise

    "More likely they'll learn how to research properly and be *more* competitive. If they want to elevate Media Studies to the level of a degree subject (don't get me started on that), then they need to show that they have the research skills that are expected at that level of education. They do not require internet access to acheive that."

    I'm all for researching "properly" but that has nothing to do with where you get the information from, as long as you can and will verify, validate and generally speaking process that information well. I don't shy away from opening a book but I find that many times I get what I need from google, a lot quicker and yes, with better results. Whatever gets the job done is the way I see it, but this teacher seems to me to have the AMD (academic masochistic disorder): if it ain't hard to do, it ain't right.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Just a

    publicity stunt (you generally get a blasting for referencing websites in essays anyway) - I bet the reading list is heavily weighted in favour of the professor's own books too, or those which agree with her views (consciously or unconsciously selected).

    While a university is supposed to be teaching critical thinking very few courses seem to do so anymore, rather they simply teach the professorial view of the subject.

    Ironically it seems that this professor is arguing a return to the original purpose of universities and intends to "teach students to question, argue, debate and challenge" by banning them from challenging, questioning and arguing information sourced from other than prescribed texts. Way to go, and an original idea to boot.

  30. steve

    Erm, why not use both?

    What the hell is all this one or the other rubbish? Is there a law that states that you can only use books if you don't use the internet? The university that i went to (i won't mention it's name, i wouldn't want to damage it's reputation by being associated with me) would allow references from websites and wiki, but not on their own. You had to have multiple references from different kinds of sources, the idea being that it helps you sort the info from utter nonsense. Researching is a skill in it's own right, and needs to be taught from an early age. Quoting wiki is not researching, neither is quoting from the books that you are told to use. She is obviously a second rate lecturer in a third rate Uni. If i had gone there instead of the top notch uni i went to, i wouldn't admit it. I wouldn't want my reputation damaged by associating myself with it.

  31. Vulpes Vulpes

    BRIGHTON University?

    Hah ha ha ha ha ha! ROFL, LMFAO etc. What a hoot!

    She just wants some publicity before she applies for a post at a proper University.

    <sound of Troll closing door behind him>

  32. Jim Lewis

    From one Bachelor degree educated poster, to another?

    @ Steve.

    I'm guessing a Batchelor's degree is in soup making.

    Did you perchance mean Bachelor's degree?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    However, this is not the full story

    She's not as crazy as I thought. Read that

  34. Nev


    All sounds more like media whoring than media studies.

    Brighton Poly must be needing a few headlines.

  35. Jaster

    Proper research

    Researching using secondary sources is bad, this means Google and Wikipedia but also any encyclopedia (printed, web, CD) ,reviews, and abstract articles in newspapers and magazines ... all these are good for finding sources but should never be used as sources

    Using a limited set of secondary sources will produce bland, similar work but so will a limited reading list ?

    Perhaps they should teach how to research, using all available resources, and how to determine how reliable a source is?

  36. Peter Kay

    Reading list, my arse

    "Reading list" is usually code for "lots of expensive, obscure and out of print books that propound obscure and out of date viewpoints". The coursework in reality often requires a maximum of 1-2 books and sometimes academic on or offline (paper) sources.

    There are some lecturers who frequently review their reading list, of course - they're the ones with a reading list of about three books..

    Far better to get students to verify their sources, than force a reading list.

  37. Robert Long

    Well, fair enough

    There's almost no information on the Web so it's not a big deal.

    Seriously. People who think the web is a research tool are the ones who are out of touch. I've never seen a website which covered the same depth as even a small book on a subject and there are thousands of topics on which the web is silent. Or worse - try researching witchcraft or druidism on-line. It would take longer to find the small amount of useful information amongst the stream of tat than it would to order a book and have it delivered, and the book would contain 10-100 times more information.

    The web is quite good for photographs, I have to say, but even then the resolution is normally far lower than even a cheap book.

    Web research is to real research what Girls Aloud are to real music - it's popular with people who are too young to know better.

  38. Mahou Saru

    Shouldn't the marking reflect the quality of the work?

    Why ban a useful tool? It is just a tool, and if a student produces "banal and mediocre work" no matter what the source they should be marked down on it.

    I wonder how does she enforce the ban? Maybe she should ask the Chinese gov for some advice on how to restrict information :p

  39. Keith T
    Paris Hilton

    Isn't there software to check the entries?

    ISTR there is software out there that can scan and check for Goggle/Wiki copies and also for rehashed on-line articles.

    It's also pretty obvious when you get students submitting entries that appear very similar.

    By encouraging students to use Google they learn to wade through the piles of crap to dig out gems of information. I take it the Prof doesn't encourage wide and varied research methods including Wiki and Google. I can only assume she doesn't use them herself.

    Or was she put off when she was looking for info on Paris -- I got to page four on Google before finding anything about Greek mythology.

  40. steve

    "Find the cheapest price for Winston Churchills in your area with Kelkoo!"

    That's possibly the best thing in the world, ever. I'm off to buy a dozen Winston Churchills, hopefully i can get 24 hour delivery.

  41. Jim Lewis

    @ Exam by anonymous coward

    I'm assuming that your analogy of an orchard is supposed to lead us to the conclusion that the well ordered orchard allows faster investigation, hence your 35 minute time limit.

    Proper investigation of a subject is not primarily focussed on speed however, and the disorganised chaotic orchard is likely to throw up some very unique and unusual information that is simply lacking in the ordered one.

    I feel that the ban issued by this lecturer in this context is valid, I have heard other reports of schoolchildren who simply did not know that a book has an index, so this is an, albeit unsubtle, way to force students to learn how to use arguably 'better' sources. At a later date the two approaches can be combined to yield an optimum faster high quality resource, with a proper understanding of critically evaluating the source, before engaging with the information.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Citing Wikipedia in a research paper

    is equivalant to saying a guy in a bar told me..... minus the beer of course.

  43. Risky

    Note to sixth-formers

    This is another reason why employers will increasingly value (and pay for) hard science degrees where wikipedia can't really help much.

  44. John

    what about the other search engines?

    no love for google, but does she accept students using Yahoo!, MS Live, Ask, even *gasp* alta-vista?

  45. Paul M.


    "I wonder how does she enforce the ban? "

    Try Reading The F***ing Article (RTFA). Or even the Comments already posted.

    Prof. Brabazon is banning _citations) of Wikipedia. If the student's argument cites _no_ sources, then it is downgraded accordingly. I'm guessing you have never been exposed to such a rigorous academic environment.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well, Google scholar ( ) is quite a good way to see what other works use the references one is working on, and it is a fairly good tool to build a bibliography, as opposed to reading only the stuff you're given. This can lead to much better work.

    Brighton professor doesn't have a clue, I'd say.

  47. steve


    "This is another reason why employers will increasingly value (and pay for) hard science degrees where wikipedia can't really help much."

    Really? Are you a physics grad? All the physics grads i know cannot get a job in their field. Unless you want to do post grad, doctorate and really specialise in something (oh, and be a genius btw) you have no chance of a job.

    Are you an Env. Science grad? No env grad i know has a job in any environment agency. They are all taken by English students. Most Env science grads go into teaching.

    Hopefully you get the idea. "Hard" sciences are not very useful in the real world. Far more people graduate with science degrees than will ever be employed in a science discipline.

    Anyway, back to the point:

    The internet is actually full of information, but you have to learn to sift through all the rubbish to find useful stuff. Wiki is full of badly written, overly biased articles. You have to look really carefully to find something of use. The same goes for books however! Most books are written from one persons point of view. They can be rediculously biased and miss bits of information out that is inconvienient for the author's point of view.

    Just because it's in print instead of on a computer screen doesn't make it true.

  48. DV Henkel-Wallace

    Find the cheapest price for Winston Churchills in your area...

    Ahh, but do they have Prince Albert in a can?

  49. DV Henkel-Wallace

    you need some links yourselves

    oh, and though you had a couple of links to ludicrous wikipedia entries (perhaps changed by now) you didn't even provide a link to what she actually said. Which is rather her point.

    Speaking of links, I'm impressed by what you got from Google. Please provide the search string. When I typed "what do you think about the ban of google in brighton" and clicked on "submit" what I got was nothing like "We believe that more knowledge is more power..."

  50. vincent himpe
    Thumb Down


    She prefers using outdated obscure tree-ware instead of recent and current information. Maybe the problem is that she just doesn't want to have to go over all these handed in assignments. If they are based on her reading list she knows what the distilled work will look like. Lazy git.

  51. Andy

    It's not just at Uni - it happens at schools

    My girlfriend teaches English at secondary level. She gave out an assignment to her 4th years (whatever that is called now) which was the first of their GCSE assignments. When she started marking them she noticed that little Johnny had suddenly become a marvellous story teller having not been able to string 2 words together for the last 3 years. She handed me over his essay and I scanned for easily searchable phrases. Within 30 seconds I had his piece of work in front of me thanks to Google. Stupid little Johnny hadn't even bothered to change a single sentence - cut and paste.

    Call me old fashioned but I think that may be called cheating. The internet is a wonderful tool - it allowed me to prove he cheated, it allows me to follow how Lancashire are doing while I'm at work, it even allows me to buy chocolate and ice cream from the comfort of my own home and have it delivered. What it isn't is a teaching resource. You have to have some knowledge before it can become such a tool. Undergrads are there learn the knowledge that will allow them to be able to use such resources. Kids will always take the shortest route to success. People are surprised when I say that most kids coming out of University aren't employable these days - the reason is they don't want to put in the work - they don't read around the subject and then don't want to put in the effort to catch up when they get into work. Like everything else in this society the shortest route to something is always considered best until it buggers up.

    Of course if the students had any brains they'd use yahoo or alta vista now instead of goolge as there's no mention of them being banned. I wonder how many of them even know that those search engines exist - after all they will all be aware of the media resources out there won't they?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Alas I mumbled and missed my mark but my aim was to suggest that it was less the apples, or the orchards, or the wild grown forests, but more the capability of a person to find good apples in either (and possibly better apples for having access to both) - given the intellectual tools to differentiate.

    To get right away from the whole clumsy metaphor, in the years just prior to the "democratization of knowledge" through the rise of the Interweb, a class I was in was given the task of doing some sort of research using magazines and trade publications as source material. There were a number of purposes to this but the pertinent one was to develop skills and techniques in determining the veracity of material in cheaply produced printed publications.

    To apply lightning to the mangled corpse of the original metaphor, someone limited to the pristine orchard misses out on the "thunderbolt from the blue" information sources - the hidden gems; the unexpected goldmine; the revolutionary thought. The person limited to the wilderness misses out on the safe harbour of known, reliable, sources - unable to even use them a model in their search for information because they just dont know how. The person who isnt artificially constrained to only access one pool of information or the other (screw the damned metaphor!), and who is also equipped with the tools to make valid discerning judgements is at an advantage over the other two. At the end of the day it is really the training - the learned ability to choose good information sources and use poor sources only to the limit of their reliability - that is most important..

    So, basically what others have been saying only more cryptically so. Thank heavens for contrived anonymity


  53. Ben

    Don’t devalue arts degrees!

    Don’t devalue arts degrees because of the dubious courses being developed and run by the new universities. This news is really more about the state of academic study in the UK, than it is about ‘New Media’. The above comments by Andy on wikipedia/google providing a *starting point* are apposite, too often in ‘ology’ courses this starting point is the finishing point also.

    The detail that shocked me was that the ‘Academic’ (quotation marks justified, I think) “provides her students with a reading list, of books, and expects their work to reference those works”. Even in the first year that reading point should be a guide, the second point in collecting and generating ideas and information. These universities are producing students who can only work from either; easy to access, but inferior, material, or highly prescribed sources.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'd hate to be teaching students who think that they can accomplish their research via Google and Wikipedia, but it's hard not read the lecture title as "Provocations from a Medicated Sage."

  55. Mahou Saru

    @Paul M

    Have you tried reading the article yourself? Try the very first sentence...

    "The professor of media studies at the University of Brighton has had enough of students turning in "banal and mediocre work" and decided that Google and Wikipedia must go."

    Google and Wikipedia, not just Wiki.

    Try the second paragraph:

    "To achieve this she has, reportedly, banned her students using _search engines_ and Wikipedia."

    Now I did notice earlier comments about citations, but please tell me how the *bleep* does someone cite Google? Google is a search engine not a library (yet).

    If your post is an example of being "exposed to such a rigorous academic environment" then I would rather stick with my ExamCram certs :p

  56. Hollerith

    college students using any encyclopedia??

    At university level, no encyclopedia is a citable source. At that level, they should be using scholarly information, i.e. grown-up books. Nothing on the web will give you the depth of research, wisdom, and interwoven understanding of Europe circa 1610 as anything by, say, J H Elliott or G Parker. Elliott's book on Olivares is matched in depth, breadth and knowledge by NOTHING on the internet. But then, my background is medieval history, and you need to know medieval latin as well as history of that period and preceding periods to be able to understand the 'why' of what was going on in, say, 1294, and to write anything intelligent about it.

    Media Studies, now that's quite a different matter.

  57. Dirk Vandenheuvel

    Most universities do this

    Most professors do not allow this. Google and Wikipedia only encourage shallow fact finding.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart students will still use them

    The point being that smart students won't be *caught* using them. If your report reads like copypasta from prominent websites you're got for breaking the web rule. If it reads like original work with proper references including those she handed out wheee!

  59. Risky


    Yes physics (but ++ years ago). Sure there will never be that many jobs in physics, but it is regarded as an attractive degree by other recuruiters (particularly in finance) who might have previously preferred more generalist courses.

  60. Jimbo


    Just wondering why you refer to her as "Ms" Brabazon and not "Professor"?

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good on her

    I would go further and ban any form of computer based research and for a very good reason. Cut & Paste. It's been touched on in the sense of cheating but that aside the simple action of cutting and pasting doesn't get any of the information in your head. It goes straight from screen to document. The good old fashioned method of reading, taking notes then putting things in your own words has the advantage that at least some brain activity is needed and maybe a tiny bit of what passes by there may decide to stay for later recall.

  62. Jeff
    Dead Vulture

    A response to low scores, no doubt

    Ideally universities should place no restrictions on a dissertation/report/essay's sources and instead hand out marks based on the quality and depth of information of each one - i.e. if a student uses wikipedia exclusively, reward him with an F. Banning Google, especially in regard to current events (that take a couple of weeks to appear in academic journals and months/years before they appear in books) is just too heavy handed.

    Of course, all but the most prestigious universities cannot afford to hand out large quantities of these grades to maintain their positions in league tables and so on, so I can see why SOME lecturers might want to do it.

  63. Anonymous Coward

    The Internet is...

    Go to:

    One of my favorite rants. An oldie but goodie.

    <I'll take the Harris Tweed with the patches on the elbows, please. Thank you very much/>

  64. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Exam

    > After 35 minutes, who will have learned the most about apples?

    Answer: Jerome... he went to the University of Brighton as well, but did a degree in Apples!

    (Not as useless as Liverpool University's degree in African Drums though...)

  65. Kradorex Xeron

    Internet vs Book research

    Universities and such don't really teach real life skills required for the workforce, and that is to be prompt, getting information quickly, and efficiently. instead, they insist students take hours upon hours researching ONE item. If you were to do that in the workforce, you'd get fired for being tardy on your research data.

    Universities and other educational institutes should NOT impose bans, but rather indicate the REAL repercussions of using the potentially iffy source (i.e. you can use $website, but your work will only be seen as credible as the source). Banning only makes things worse as far as this is concerned as it prevents people from using available resources in their educational work.

    As it seems, Universities are bubble-wrapping students into not thinking on their own and mindlessly writing essays that are to a very specific wordlength and to a very specific type style. in doing this, they are actually piping out students who know alot of the subject at hand, but no real practical application in the real world to present it to employers, thus no employer would in their right mind hire them as said in a few of the posts stated previously.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    That'll teach those lazy students!

    Wanting a job in the real world - pfft. Just do as I tell you and you'll pass my class, to hell with the real world and "up to the minute" information.

    As I deal with a lot of students who -don't- know how to use Google (or any web based research), I'd have to say she's setting up a lot of students for failure in later life, especially if they work in any media environment.

    But, just like any teacher, she's right. Who cares if it's the students livelyhood - and professional careers - at stake they better damn well do as she says or no degree.


  67. Anonymous Coward

    The Way I Work... pretty effective. I've been in The Field for a couple of decades now, and it has ALL been at the very bleeding edge of modern technology (only the software and hardware part -it's a big world).

    If you want to find out about computer-related stuff (algorithms, new techniques, NEW MEDIA, controversies and debunking of sham science), then you'd be a complete, knucklewalking, drooling moron NOT to use Google, or a number of other sources as a starting point.

    Of course you don't use hits on the first page as your only source. I often don't get good stuff until I've hit a a few ooooo's. I have found some great gems in the low-ranking pages.

    When I hit a page with information, I have to use this strange new concept called "good judgment." Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.

    A pretty Web page means nothing. Look at the pages of some of the most highly-respected technocrats. They look like a schoolkid did them in the '90s, yet the information they contain is the best in the world. Some of the slickest and most well-designed sites I've seen have been neo-nazi hate sites and commercial sockpuppet sites.

    In my field (which, I assumed, was pretty much the same as the average El Reg reader), printed material is usually highly effective catbox liner. It's useless out the door.


  68. Ross

    Oh dear

    1) -ology degrees are looked down upon? I don't think my lady will be very happy to find her biology degree from a "proper" university counts for naught.

    2) Citing Wikipedia is just asking to be ridiculed.

    3) There's nothing wrong with trying to find your own references per se. However, the vast, vast majority of freshers have *never* done proper research before. They get given a text book in class and that is their world. Throwing them in at the deep end is therefore a bad idea. You may as well give a learner driver their first lesson on the M25 at 8am on a Monday morning. Yes, they need those traffic dodging skills one day, but let's start off nice and simple eh?

    By giving them texts that you have checked you can teach them how to use them properly and see that they are actually doing it in their papers. Once they have that down pat *then* they can start to find their own stuff.

    4) Books *are* better than the internet. The main and most obvious reason is that books cost money to print, and nobody will buy your book if it's filled with inaccurate prattle.

    I don't understand how ppl can be complaining about this. If the story was "Brighton Uni Media Studies course accepts Wikipedia as a quotable source" there'd be uproar (rightly so) that such courses count for bugger all and the UK education system is circling the drain etc.

  69. Mark Johnson

    So if the Internet has been lying to me...

    ...what the hell is my philtrum really called?

  70. Nexox Enigma

    Books can win...

    I spent about a week googling for various information that I needed for a project that included some HVAC design concepts. I didn't exactly get far. I did, however get the names of a few books that might help. After 20 minutes of purposeful meandering through L-space (being able to see nothing but tall, narrow rows of books is so disorienting...) I had a table full of all the information that I could possibly want. Plus quite a bit more.

    Plus I like the fact that books are a hell of a lot easier to manipulate (except for grepping...) - I can lay a whole table of them out, vs a monitor of text, I can add bookmarks that I can access by a simple reach, I can hold my finger(s) in 2 or 3 pages and quickly flip back and forth, and I can hurl them at project members that are getting off topic. I find that most PDF readers / ebook readers / web browsers lack most of that functionality.

    @Ian: I prefer degrees that end in "Engineering." Most of those end up being pretty useful worthy of payment. Then again there are quite a few degrees with no ending at all that are entirely useless too... Marketing, Communications, Pre Law, Dance, and Studio Art, to name a few. Who pays money to go to a 4 year institution to end up with a nice paper which says 'Dance' on it.

  71. Bart Wempe


    Wait a moment.. We're talking media studies here, right?

    Could be me, but should the *first* idea of any "relevant" course in media studies be teaching student proper search engine search strings, along with quality estimation of New Media resources?

    In which case the dear professor wouldn't have to rave and rant about google and wikipedia to begin with, since her students would have had a proper grounding in the pitfalls of Web 2.0, and she could have easily given work that did not reflect the prior training the asessment it deserves.

    Then again, that would be expecting actual academic quality from university, the field, the staff, the students, or any combination thereof to begin with.

    And we're talking about *Media Studies*, right?

  72. P. Lee
    Paris Hilton

    what's it all for?

    Call me old fashioned but university (or perhaps, "tertiary education" in this case) is not there to provide job skills or job related knowledge. The point is to train people how to think.

    A book is DRM free, can be resold and can last for several decades. Now compare that cost with your laptop.

    Academic books in general are quite long compared to your average web page. In a book there is time to explore nuances and issues to a depth simply not found on the web unless you want a Klingon translation of Lord of the Rings. Since books are also expected to last longer than web pages, more effort is put into linguistic presentation - sentence structure, vocabulary and so on. The absorption of such material is likely to result in its reuse and the general enhancement of the communication skills of the reader.

    Reading a well-constructed book is a different experience to scanning a web page. Reading a monitor is much harder work than a paper page so the tendency is to scan for the relevant key points and skip the rest. That makes computer use tend towards information gathering, not thoughtful reflection and analysis.

    Having said that, I suspect media studies is all about how to bypass people's conscious decision-making processes with high-impact, low content, emotional messages.

    You reap what you sow.


    PH, because the media is the message

  73. Futaihikage

    Props to the Prof

    Congrats to this Professor for bringing down the ban hammer on Google and Wikipedia. I work in an IT department in a University and you can tell / read the difference between people who got their material off the internet and the people who went to the library, or did a case study or two themselves in order to research a project. The ones who do Google and Wikipedia, their reports feel like they've only gotten the "Cliffnotes" version of the whatever topic they are researching and the rest just feels like BS or fluff. The students that take the time to get the books and do the hands on research, you readily see that the person is written in words that only the individual student would use. The information just seems to have been "digested" more. At least thats from what I've seen.

  74. Rich

    Is she really called Tara Brabazon?

    As in Lord Brabazon of Tara, instigator of the Bristol Brabazon aircraft:


  75. J
    IT Angle


    "That's why we're committed to democratising access to information... One of the great advantages of the internet is that anyone can publish what they know."

    Inhabitants of despotically controlled countries need not apply, surely.

    "Alas I mumbled and missed my mark but my aim was to suggest that it was less the apples, or the orchards, or the wild grown forests, but more the capability of a person to find good apples in either (and possibly better apples for having access to both) - given the intellectual tools to differentiate."

    That's exactly what I understood when I first read your first post, my primitive English notwithstanding. So don't feel bad...

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As far as I can tell, you're seeing lousy papers and attributing them to students who used teh intertubes, and seeing good papers and attributing them to students who did not.

    Hardly brilliant reasoning for such a scholar as you.

  77. J


    I'm a big fan of books (and of the interwebs too, btw), but I'd like to point out that books can be published by ANYONE with the money.

    You know, it's not because it is in a book that it is good stuff. You still got to have decent background information in your brain AND critical thinking skills. Just see the "cdesign proponentsists" (Google is your friend, haha!) -- they've got a lot of books out, even if all they say is junk. They do not publish in peer reviewed sources (which can also contain bad/ mediocre stuff), because they are not saying anything useful.

    Now, I'd also like to say that copy/paste goes both ways, as mentioned by someone above in the "Johnny" case -- it makes it easier for the student to cheat, but it also makes it easier for the instructor to catch. I've personally come across such a case, in graduate school no less, PhD level. I teach a class in some other professors' courses, and they ask me to give the students an assignment. Simple stuff, because they have a week to do it. One of the assignments last year contained an answer that was *obviously* not written by a student. It's easy to tell. And by the way, the stupid guy got it all wrong anyway, having barely adapted the two pieces of a PDF lecture (posted in another Uni's website) to the problem I had given... He didn't even change the numbers from the PDF's example to the numbers involved in the exercise. A quick Google search of a piece of a sentence turned up the original source in milliseconds. Another few seconds after a Control-F and I had the specific paragraph...

  78. Sceptical Bastard

    A hottie?

    Did any of you hear her on the radio? I did and - bit strident, I felt. Ignoring her advice, I Googled her. Never mind her intellect or academic excellence - she looks hot. And, after all, looking attractive to sad ageing men in IT is what every feminist aspires to, innit ;)

  79. Billy Verreynne

    Slam Google will you!?

    When Google achieve self-awareness in 2038 and becomes the first (and only) artificial intelligence on this planet... you ALL will be SORRY!!

  80. Mark

    This is not news!

    Nice to see Brighton Polytechnic *cough* I mean University is coming in line with what we at traditional universities have always specified anyway.

    Sources absolutely have to be peer reviewed to prove that they are true knowledge to the best of the ability of the author or researcher. Although I love Wikis and search engines and feel that they are a valued day-to -day resource, they have no place in academic work.

    Any amateur, liar or charlatan can post any (mis)information they like on the net, and it is a matter of course in the university that I work at that web links are rejected as a form of research for course work. I am surprised that Brighton Uni ever accepted them in the first place.

  81. Chris Cook
    Jobs Horns

    proper research

    I guess a lot of people mistake research for ripping a few facts from any source and "putting them in your own words" (as taught in many schools).

    No lecturer wants to be told what they already know (which will almost certainly include the reading list and the top 5 pages from Google). What they want to know is that you understand what is being taught.

    The reading list is suggested as a _starting point_. At both college and university, I was asked to do as much reading around the subject as I did lectures. So by all means use the internet as additional source, but don't rely on it as a reliable source, or as a shortcut.

    If you think a book on the reading list is outdated, discuss it with the lecturer. They may not realize if a new version is released. If you don't have an opportunity to talk to them (they all have email these days), then add discussion to the essay, contrasting the book with the net. Its an easy way to pad out the research/reading section if nothing else, and also shows that you may actually know what you are talking about. It will make the essay more interesting and make it stand out from the rest.

    You also don't have to buy everything on the list, get a group of friends together, buy one each and share.

  82. Ishkandar

    @Billy Verreynne

    Sorry to disappoint you but Bush Jr (Dubya to his friends). has already claimed that title long since !!

  83. John Benson

    Wikipedia versus Academia: a false dilemma

    As for citing Wikepedia, it's like citing a cloud formation; people can't always go back and examine what you cited because it is subject to change at any time. When you cite a book with a certain ISBN published by a certain publisher in a certain edition, you have a citeable resource that can be checked if desired. Even though editions sell out and books may even go out of print, there is at least the ideal of a static artifact of definite content, to which Wikipedia simply does not aspire. This in itself is not a dig against Wikipedia, it's just a fact of academic life: citations need to be traceable to something reasonably permanent, and Wikipedia doesn't fit the mold.

    That said, there is a more important problem with students doing research via Wikipedia or even a conventional dead tree encyclopedia for that matter: it deprives the student of real exploration and the chance to create.

    Some time ago I returned to college as a 33 year-old undergraduate and brought to my writing the odd gem from outside reading in Structural Linguistics, Literary Theory, Freud, MacLuhan etc. Example: My taste for deconstruction of text to discover hidden assumptions and agendas was tremendously boosted by running across the following marxist dictum in a Lit Crit book: "Every power structure secretes an ideology to make the status quo seem so normal as to nullify the possibility of criticism." Although there was little fun to be had tormenting my professors with run-of-the-mill Marxist deconstruction, this tipped me off that examining the origins and possible motivations for a text is often more useful than pretending that the text is a freestanding, autonomous artifact as some poetry critics would have it. With this and other little gems in the back of my mind, I was able to dredge things out of the assigned reading that my best profs had never considered, and they were delighted.

    This is not the kind of thing you'll get from Wikipedia or any other online tool. You have to explore--that is, read widely--on your own, and in your explorations you'll collect useful (or at least interesting) ideas that you (and not Wikipedia) will be able to compare, contrast and highlight with threads in the reading material assigned by the teacher. And it will be truly representative of you, though you may take your knocks in defending your creation.

    So, the real criticism of Wikipedia is that although it may point out some interesting avenues to explore, it is not the exploration itself. The real exploration is your encounter with the actual source material (not abstracts or commentaries) and your collecting of bright and shiny ideas that may come in handy at some point.

    My criterion for distinguishing an idea that will probably be useful later is if it provokes one of the following subvocalizations: "Wow!", "Interesting!", "Cool!" or "I wish I had said that!". Out comes the highlighter, I may jot down a more extended comment on it, and I rarely throw away a book that has a lot of highlighting and notes in it. When it came time to put together a paper for the teacher, I just pillaged my storehouse of highlights and notes and the papers practically wrote themselves. It takes a few years to accumulate a usable stock of stimulating ideas, but if you start in high school you'll have a chance at writing something really interesting at the college level.

    In summary, Wikipedia is a tool, but it's not acceptable as an authoritative source of citations by its very nature. The exploration of real source material lies elsewhere, and normal individual variation in what gets explored is what will put an individual's stamp on his or her subsequent writing.

  84. Jimbo

    My Two Cents.

    A couple of thoughts on reading these messages:

    @ Robert Long

    >There's almost no information on the Web so it's not a big deal.

    >Seriously. People who think the web is a research tool are the ones

    >who are out of touch.

    I must be out of touch then. I'm studying Computer Science at the mo, so by the

    reckoning of some here it's a "proper" degree. I have found information on the 'Net, and used it for projects which have scored quite well.

    @ Risky

    >This is another reason why employers will increasingly value (and pay for)

    > hard science degrees where wikipedia can't really help much.

    I was studying Computer Systems Architecture recently, and wished to find out more about chip architecture, so I started with Wikipedia using the phrase CPU.

    This rather quickly lead me to information about pipelines, a method used for speeding up throughput. Having not read much about this yet I pasted the header for the page into Google on a new tab.

    This is the page it sent me to.

    The fifth entry on this page is for "" Yep, Stanford University.

    O.K. so the first two hits went back to Wikipedia, the third to a management

    strategies company, but hits four and five were universities.

    My point is that Wikipedia is not the destination when researching, but it can

    be quite handy as a first step to find other connected areas for further study.

    @ Keith T

    >Or was she put off when she was looking for info on Paris -- I got to page

    >four on Google before finding anything about Greek mythology.

    Understandable. But if you were looking for Greek mythology in a library

    would you check the book list for anything that mentioned Paris and go to

    every book in order until you found the information you sought?

    I would pass on anything in the travel section, or foreign languages etc.

    and add the term "Greek mythology" to my initial search. The same thing

    works in Google.

    Albeit the first link is one for Wikipedia, but all five of the top links are


    Both Google and Wikipedia are useful, but not the end point of my research.


  85. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google. Last time I got the info i needed in the first 5 hits.

    1999 IIRC.......

  86. Alan James

    The Brabazon has been scrapped.

    Irony, irony. Using Google to research a piece about books, I come across this story about Prof Brabazon, who wants her students only to read the printed word, and forget the net.

    So Ms Brabazon rails against the present and wants people to use yesterday's technology.

    At least she is aptly named. The Bristol Brabazon was a wonderful piece of British engineering. Airliner prototype. Wonderfully luxurious. Eight engines. Only one problem. They were attached to propellers. And there was this thing called the jet engine...

    The Bristol Brabazon was scrapped. The Brighton Brabazon should be too.

    PS. I'm reading a good book at present. I found it by reading reviews. I found the reviews by searching Google. Obliquely. Using terms unconnected with the title of the book.

    Oblique connections, lateral thinking heteroglossia good. Monologic linear narrative bad.

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