The Waiting Room

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Don't Know Nothin' About Research

Posted by Seeking Solace |

"I got directions, but I’m still lost today." I Don’t Want to Know by Sheryl Crow
From the CD Wildflower, A & M (2005).

For their research project, my Survey of Law students have to analyze a Supreme Court case. They have to explain the facts of the case, the arguments on both sides and the court’s decision. They must also give their opinion as to whether the court was correct in their decision. The paper must have a minimum, of eight sources, with only two Internet sites sources. The students select a case from a list that I provide. I spend an entire class explaining the project and each case on the list.

Because the actual cases are written in Legalese, which is a language only understood by attorneys, judges, law school students and really bored intellectuals, I refer my students to different reference books that explain each case in plain English. I also have our Librarian meet with the class and show them what sources are out there, both in the physical library and cyberspace.

Well, my students are mad at me. They can’t understand why I limit the number of Internet sites. I explained to them, as I have on many occasions that they should consider books, journals, video and other sources besides the Internet. Plus, it is too easy for them to just cut and paste a paper together, instead of actually doing the work. I have suggested different books, journals etc, but I hesitate on doing too much, because this is THEIR project. They should do the work, not me.

We have a small library with limited resources. So, I suggested that they try the County Public Library, which is across the street from the school. One student actually said “But that library is too big.” I even suggest the Law Library at the courthouse, which many of my past students have used successfully. My students tell me that they do not want to walk that far. (It’s only three or four short blocks away).

Research is about discovery, kind of like a treasure hunt. There is a wealth of information out there. But I honestly believe that my students don’t want to do the work. On top of that, I don’t think anyone ever taught them how to research a topic. If the solution is not on the Internet, it does not exist.

What they don’t know can hurt them.


Astroprof said...

I have my astronomy students write a paper. To help them out, I've worked with the librarians to acquire over one hundred new astronomy and space books, covering just about any topic that they might want to write about. These are mostly freshmen and sophomores. I have them submit a topic to me. I approve it or not, and usually suggest resources in the library. Do they then go check out these books? No. Do they go check out any other books? No. Do they look at any of the periodicals in the library? No. Do they use the extensive online database of full text articles that the library has? No. What do they do? They do a Google or Yahoo search, and take the first few hits that come back. That is their research. It is so frustrating.