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.


  • shanayatales

    While I love the internet for easy access to information, I realize the danger of inaccuracies even with the “legitimate” sites. On the whole I think it is a positive thing as long as we use it only as a source of quick reference to be researched later, especially for things that really matter. Glad to have connected with a fellow reader. Btw, your bucket list inspires me to write one. ­čÖé
    *Shantala @ ShanayaTales*

  • I remember having to search through card catalog files to find books on topic! And my kid doesn’t even know what that is. I myself find it frustrating doing research online- there are so many conflicting viewpoints and its hard sometimes to tell which ones are legit. But then, plenty of people have published books with skewed facts and misleading information as well. Yes, editors should fact-check, but do they always catch everything… ?

  • I hasn’t thought about this before. University was a LONG time ago. (Haven’t really thought about my opinion as a Brit about the Declaration of Independence either.) You make some valid points. There certainly are pros and cons to all this accessible information, far beyond what I’d previously considered.

    TD Harvey
    A to Z participant

  • I remember a librarian telling our class that it wasn’t as important what you know as it was to know how to find what you wanted to know, That did stick with me and I do wonder at the ease of Google and what can be misinformation. It’s a new world, for sure!

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