I was helping Amber pull together a two-page research paper last night on the British view of America’s Declaration of Independence. It’s an interesting topic and one I hadn’t really considered much, but that’s not my point today.

I remember doing research papers 20/25 years ago. You had to go to the library, find the journal, book, encyclopedia article, make a photocopy or write down the information you wanted. You had to read the books or articles and pick out what mattered to your topic. I’ll grant you, she’s only a freshman, so her papers will probably/hopefully become more in-depth as time goes on, but what she, and I imagine most of the kids in her class, did was type a few key words into Google and see what comes up. We have so much information at our fingertips, but I think we’re not necessarily teaching actual research skills to our kids. Her teachers do insist on “legitimate” sites, but even those are often questionable.

I’ll grant you “British View America Declaration of Independence” brings up some good information, but everyone in her class is going to have the same sources, the same information. Yes, she’s learned about the topic, which I guess is the point, but it doesn’t feel like legitimate research. Of course, it’s partly my fault. Next paper, I’ll at least steer her towards Google Scholar and our libraries on-line research options. I also think the quick availability of on-line information means it’s easier to put off the paper. Instead of planning ahead and requesting books appropriate to the topic, she starts on it the Monday of the week it’s due.

It’s also way more difficult to cite many of the on-line resources. Often, there’s no author or no publishing date. But that’s just a minor annoyance, or it might be the true reason I hate internet research – hard to tell.

On the other hand, I love having so much information available immediately. If we’re sitting at lunch and Rube Goldberg machines come up, we can look up Rube Goldberg on one of our phones. In minutes, we can learn that he was a cartoonist and that the “machines” started as a series of cartoons. I didn’t know that. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his political cartooning. Before the age of having this much information in our pockets, I would have forgotten about the topic before I left the restaurant and never taken the time to learn anything about it.

What about you? Any comments on internet research, good , bad or indifferent?

This is my rather rambling I post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.