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Millennials Don't Know How to Google. Do You?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

There's been a lot talk about "digital natives" lately, that cohort of Millennials who grew up immersed in an online world, never engaging in once-common activities like flipping through an encyclopedia or trying to fold up a map. Those tasks were largely outsourced to computers by the late '90s.

Surprisingly, it turns out that many in this generation of computer whizzes can't do even the most basic Internet task: Google effectively. According to a study of college students at Illinois Wesleyan University, only 23 percent were able to conduct a "well-executed" Google search.

That's right; the kids these days can't even Google. Can you?

What's Wrong With the Young'ns

The study was put together by Illinois librarians to examine students' research methods. Almost all students didn't understand how search logic worked, whether in Google or a scholarly database. Very few had any idea how that you could do more than type in a word or question and browse through the first page.

If you plan on working with a young clerk, paralegal, intern or even associate, the study's results should give you pause. Many lawyers spend a significant amount of their time researching. Finding favorable, applicable caselaw requires a solid understanding of how to effectively sift through the clutter of legal databases. Luckily, most law students and legal professionals are well versed in composing efficient searches by the time they begin working.

Efficient Searches? Let Me Google That ...

So, what's an effective Google search? Just like Westlaw or Lexis, Google allows users to employ search operators and filters. For example, if you're looking for a FindLaw blog post on client trust accounts from the last two years you may Google something like: intitle:("client funds" OR "trust accounts") 2013..2015.

That's going to give much better results than simply throwing "client trust accounts" into the search bar. Using Google's advanced search function can also allow you to narrow results by language, region, location in the webpage, and even usage rights.

If you need a refresher on putting together a strong search phrase, MIT Libraries offers a good overview, explaining Boolean operators, truncation, keywords and other search tools. If you like pictures (and who doesn't?), HackCollege provides a handy, Google-specific infographic.

With a little practice, you'll soon be teaching Millennials how to use the Internet.

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