When was the last time you, as a researcher, heard that decree from someone assigning research? When I started as a reference librarian, most requests started with the words "Get me everything on…" Then I would run around pulling out books, law review articles, legislation, case law, news articles, or whatever else might be vaguely applicable. I would search catalogues from other larger libraries, search the legal literature indices (usually on Quicklaw) and, depending on the time frame, either provide a list of cites or track down the items themselves from outside libraries. Everything!
More often than not the results would be a foot tall (that's 30 cm for you kids), not including the books. Some people were delighted, but most were horrified. "Be careful what you wish for!" would be my cheerful response. Personally, I was thankful I didn't have to read through it all myself.
My reference librarian coworkers and I were recently reminiscing about those days, realizing that people just don't ask for "everything" any more. Why not? When did this change occur?
We speculate that with Web searching, especially with Google, "everything" can be quite overwhelming. Suddenly people are becoming familiar with the need to be specific. Throw in those additional key words! Better define that issue! Search for that specific fact situation! Otherwise, instead of a foot of material, they will be faced with a room full of information, most of it irrelevant, out of date, or just plain incorrect.
Let me tell you about one exception: we still have one senior fellow who asks us for "everything". But then again, he doesn't use the computer himself, relying on juniors and office staff to carry this burden. We do our best to gently guide him towards specificity. But that doesn't quite wash with him. In his view, he is concerned that he (or rather, his juniors) won't find a key item if they don't look through all and sundry related material. So, book after book and mound after mound of paper are pulled, sorted, and sifted through. And, after all, he's worked hard all his life and up until now enjoyed great success. If he asked for everything, wouldn't you give it to him?
Ah, to be at that stage in my life, when I command to someone "Give me everything!" and have it quickly appear before me.