Revolutionizing the College Research Paper
March 4, 2009
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During my four years here at UNH, I’ve written an average of one long research paper each semester. These papers usually follow the same sort of guidelines: somewhere between eight to 10 pages, MLA format, works cited page, no plagiarism allowed, etc. Somewhere along the way, however, the idea of research has shifted to incorporate a different set of media and rules.
In high school, research involved books. I remember teachers stressing the importance of books in research. They criticized the Internet despite its growing popularity and usefulness.
In college, this mindset shifted to include the resources the Internet has to offer. However, every research paper maintained a book requirement. The section dedicated to the term paper always contained a book clause clearly stating that two or three sources must be books. Somewhere between freshman year and senior year, the expectation that students should use books as research has slipped to the wayside. Not only are books not required as sources anymore, but teachers are actually enthusiastically sending students to the Internet to research their various term paper topics. One of my teachers this semester even went as far as to tell my class not to bother even looking for books. He whole-heartedly pointed out that the most comprehensive knowledge on any particular topic is held on the Internet, not in our library.
As a book-lover, I find it hard to admit to myself that this sentiment is indeed true. However, we are certainly in an age where technology rules. Take a walk into any library and you’re most likely going to find books dating back decades. Regardless of the amount of recently published books, sifting through all of these old books just to find relevant information can certainly be tedious.
The Internet, on the other hand, makes it much easier to find current, concise information on virtually any topic. For high school teachers, I’m sure the main issue lies in their confidence that their students will take their time sifting through all the information the Internet has to offer. As a college student, I would like to say that I am smart enough to take my time searching the web for resources. Although, I do not doubt there are plenty of students who are quick to site Wikipedia as their only source.
The fact of the matter is that the Internet is really THE best place to go for research. As seen in the article submitted by the Marvin K. Peterson Library this week, even full books are online. But what people still have not come to terms with is that books aren’t the only resources at hand anymore.
Despite its controversy, Wikipedia is an undeniable resource. By no means do I think it should be used as your only or primary resource for a research paper. However, Wikipedia is the best starting off point for collecting your basic information like dates. The site is also useful when you’re looking for related topics when your research comes to a stalemate. Skimming through a Wikipedia page will provide you with plenty of new ways to research your subject.
Another new-age resource is podcasts and videos. I remember having a first-hand interview as a resource option for high school research papers. Nowadays, those interviews don’t even need two people. Podcasts and videos can feature valuable information that you can listen to rather than read.
Of course, the Internet can also impede research. Nothing bothers me more than when all my Google search results include nothing but blogs. Nevertheless, I think it’s time for us to embrace the Internet as a resource in itself instead of going back to the books that we are comfortable with. I’m glad that professors are starting to see the Internet as an opportunity for deeper, more multi-faceted research. If us students return the favor by taking the time to find worthy resources, I think we can easily revolutionize the traditional research paper and make it something less monotonous and more entertaining.