You may have noticed a box on the right hand side in some of your Google Searches, highlighting key information.  Welcome to the Google Knowledge Graph, a really cool advancement aiming to raise the bar for internet search.  Google explains in their blog, “Instead of simply matching your keywords, Google’s technology will try to understand your query, and bring back the information you are looking for on the right-hand-side of the traditional results. This a ‘critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.”

While it is not artificial intelligence, I think the idea is pretty cool and ambitious: that the most powerful internet search engine on the planet hopes to be able to differentiate information not as characters, but rather what it means in terms of real world objects (i.e. know the difference between Paris, the City vs Paris, the Actress) and for the knowledge graph to provide the connections for a more efficient and convenient search.  Google released a brief YouTube video explaining the knowledge graph and what the thinking is behind it:

According to Google’s Blog, the knowledge graph draws from public resources like Wikipedia, Freebase and the CIA world fact book, contains more than 500 million objects, more than 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these different objects and is attuned to what people search for in order to improve.  It is intended to enhance Google search by finding the right thing (again Paris Hilton vs. Paris, France), providing a summary of the information and allowing the user to go broader and deeper into the searched topic by presenting relevant information.

Effective search is hard and students often face difficulty in finding accurate, in-depth resources on the internet, especially if it is an esoteric, uncommon and/or controversial topic.  Students are not always given the proper training in search or in evaluating resources for accuracy and bias.  Therefore,  Google Knowledge graph may potentially provides access to well-known credible sources up front that students might not automatically think to go to or discover through search.

So Google Will Now Do All The Research For My Paper Right? Wrong!

Do not expect the Google Knowledge Graph to do the research or provide all the resources for you!  The knowledge graph is only in the beginning stages, slowly being released onto the world, and therefore is very limited.   The knowledge graph appears for well-known topics and brings up basic reference information for a quick answer or discovering related topics.  However, it often cites Wikipedia, which generally is not acceptable for a university research papers.   Google admits that the technology is very new and does not bring up everything: “For now, this section of information appears only for certain types of searches about a person, place, or thing. For example, while you won’t see it appear for searches on companies, video games, and cars, you can often see it for searches about a book, movie, sports team, location, dog breed, roller coaster, or famous person.” On that note, it is a bit ironic that when I searched for the Google Knowledge Graph in Google, the Knowledge Graph on the right hand side did not appear.  Furthermore, the knowledge graph would be very useful for research and discovering internet resources on esoteric or arcane  topics, however it is those topics that are most unlikely to appear on the Google Graph.

While I am sure the Google knowledge graph will improve, it will most likely benefit students by becoming a research tool over a quick reference tool.  The knowledge graph can further assist students in research by incorporating open access repositories, relevant cultural institutions (like museums,) or even the articles from the personal websites of experts and professors in the topics being researched.  As a librarian,  I hope Google will partner with projects like the Digital Public Library of America, and utilize  Open Access Archive to harvest metadata and the freely accessible digital resources Acadmic libraries continue to put online, thereby making scholarly resources more discoverable in the the Knowledge Graph!

In conclusion, the Google Knowledge Graph may make it easier for students to find relevant information faster, but it is still up to the student to connect the dots, evaluate the resources presented, and use critical thinking to draw conclusions for the information in order to write that research paper. Google Knowledge Graph may potentially link to relevant academic scholarly resources, but currently it is more of a reference tool and does not appear for many subjects.  But don’t worry! While Google knowledge graph may one day be the one stop for research, students can still go to a university librarian for help in finding, interpreting and understanding research and information.

What do you think are the benefits and possible drawbacks of the Google Knowledge Graph?  Let us know in the comments below!