Generations before the Millennials may remember striving diligently through library materials, such as encyclopedias, atlases, almanacs, etc., especially for school projects. Unfortunately, this diligence has surrendered to convenience. The wave came first through computer software, then through the internet. And as many have tried to “surf” the web, rip tides are inevitable.
Let’s start with Google. It has been synonymous for quite sometime with searching the web. Or maybe even searching, period. In any case, let the searcher beware.
And now you have an “encyclopedia,” known as Wikipedia, which, being a public entity in which people try to look things up, there is little or no assurance of scholarly backup. Sure, the sources in the references may be scholarly. And there are varying differences of technicality among Wikipedia articles. But the contributors (read: writers) are responsible for what goes in and out of it (along with a few “bots”). And, whether you consider it a blessing or a curse, articles constantly change!
Alas, I must confess, I am prone to using Wikipedia myself. Therefore, I want to avoid preaching about it, but just follow your heart. Besides, in scholastic situations, instructors advise their students not to use it (or any encyclopedia) for projects assigned.
Ok, moving on. Yesterday I felt I had the dilemma of keeping either the print set (1981, though most content seems to been written in, say, the early 70s), and the more modern computer program (2012). But since they work as a team, there really was no “dilemma” to begin with! Some libraries, in fact, may retain multiple editions of a reference source. Though in the 21st century, many libraries have purged much of their reference material.
And there is much potential in that. Back to Google (or any of its rivals, e.g. Bing), you can get even more content. Or if you prefer print, consult a number of references. Or even websites! See, there is a good element to the web. It just requires wisdom.
Until you’re satisfied with a topic, the more references, the merrier. Think of them as a team, whether separate works and/or different editions of one work. And if you’re totally puzzled in one source, try another. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.