So another school year has started and once again I volunteered my time and energy to help a group of students at Eau Gallie High School hone their paper researching and writing skills. This year however, the teachers were kind enough to have the students fill out a survey at the end of the presentation asking for feedback on things they learned, things that surprised them, what confused them, and what they would like to know more about. So I spent yesterday reading through them and compiling a list of answers for them and for you!
There were some items that I was surprised they were asking questions about and the conclusion that I have come to is high school students have questions, but they are afraid to ask them. So we (the collective Librarian/University Professor/Etc. we…) need to think seriously about doing some outreach in local high schools. Did you know that one of the most listed items on the forms that surprised students (Just behind me telling them that there is a correct way to use Wikipedia) was that you can ask Librarians and Professors for help? Crazy but true!
So here I have listed several of the main ideas that students want more information about and I will probably add to this in the future.
A TON of questions were asked about Wikipedia. My stance is, it is a great place to begin research. If you know absolutely nothing about a topic it is fine to go to the Wikipedia page and read up on the topic. This site can give you a good foundation place to start. I understand that the information might not be 100% correct, but this site is just giving you a general idea of the topic, not facts. For facts you should be using books, journal articles, professors, Librarians, doing more research to get the full story.
“Is it true people can change Wikipedia, why would we use it then?”
It is true that you can change Wikipedia. It is as easy as creating an account and then editing the page. However, the information is usually verified before it gets posted. To learn more about what Wikipedia is, how it works, and who can edit it check out their Wiki page HERE 🙂
I suggest Wikipedia as a beginning place to start research not because it is completely accurate, but because sometimes when you have to start researching something you have no idea where to begin. And for me personally, Wikipedia is where I generally start. I can read about the history of the topic, see what the current issues are, and look at the pages citations. Once I have done this I usually have a better idea of what I want to write about as well as where to start looking for good resources to use. But if you prefer not to use Wikipedia, then by all means don’t, you can find all this information elsewhere and it will probably be more accurate. Keep in mind that these are just tricks that I use when writing papers and it is what has worked for me.
“I thought the Librarian only checked out books” “You need a Master’s degree to be a Librarian?”
The second most asked question/surprising fact was that Librarians needed a Master’s degree and that they did more than just check books in and out. When I explained that students can walk up to the Reference desk and ask for research help or schedule a research consultation many of the students were surprised. They had no idea that you could ask for help conducting research! No wonder students don’t come ask the Librarians questions, they don’t know that they can!
“How can Librarians help me?”
I like to think of Librarians as ‘that smart friend’. What I mean is, everyone has that one friend they trust and always asks for help in one way or another; Librarians are kind of like that. Someone you can trust, who you can not be embarrassed to ask questions to. They can help with a range of things including research questions, help with food stamps, resume questions, citations, applying to schools, and the list goes on. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions! Otherwise you will never know the answer. And trust me, you are not ‘bothering’ us, we want to help that’s why we chose this profession! We don’t judge! Promise! 😉
“Why are Professors so strict about papers?” “Why do we have to write papers?”
I think the easiest way to answer this is, Professors have a high expectation of you because you have made it to college. I don’t necessarily think it is the papers that are important to the professors but rather the ideas behind the papers. They want to test a few things: 1) Are you able to find accurate information on a topic? 2) Can you read through the information and pick out what is necessary to your argument and what is not? 3) Are you able to effectively make an argument? 4) Can you logically explain why you feel that you are right why those who oppose you are wrong? 5) Are you paying attention and following directions by using specific citation methods and by following the class rubric?
In high school and college most of the papers you write (in my opinion) are tests. The professor is looking at what you have learned. You can also think of it this way, would you want a Doctor looking at you and telling you what was wrong if they weren’t able to research the symptoms? Would you want someone working on your computer who had no idea how to look up what the problem was? A research paper is just a way to show someone that you are capable of doing research and finding information.
Plus, college is most likely your last step before you go out into the job market. And the higher paying the job is the more likely you are to write papers. I promise, 8 years ago I was asking the same question, “Why do I need this? I will never write papers after school…” but I promise you, I have written several papers for places other than school. You know what? I am writing the equivalent to a paper now! I am up to 1000 words at this point!
Doing Research/The Internet
There were a lot of general questions on how to do research and how I came up with my list of tips that I shared. To be honest, there is no correct answer. Firstly you have to find out what methods you are comfortable with and secondly, the internet and sources are changing. Now you will always have books and journals, and Librarians will always be here to answer any questions as well, but Wikipedia and Google might not always be around and they might always be the best places to look for information. So ask people who are doing the same things you are doing what sources they use and where they get your information. It may sound cheesy, but you can’t have a question answered if you don’t ask the question!
Places to get research tips:
Youtube.com This may seem strange but people are always uploading tutorials here. Use them! One of my favorites is Tekzilla.
Google Where do you think I learned about the Google tricks? I googled “Google tips” and these lists are always updating! So check back a few times a year.
Yahoo/Bing! I had one question asking if there where other search engines other than Google to use in case Google was ever down. I don’t really use Yahoo or Bing! but I know a lot of people who do and love them. So of course they are options as well.
Twitter/Facebook/Google+ Really any social media will do. Follow the tech people on these sites and they are constantly updating and posting on interesting things they are learning about. I get some of my best search tips this way. Some of the people I follow are: (I went ahead and linked their Twitter account here for you)
The Library It doesn’t have to be the school library, Public libraries are amazing too and the Librarians there are just as helpful! Also, library cards are FREE so go get one!
And if you ever have questions ASK! I left you all my contact info on your handouts so contact me!
Update!! Also Here is an infographic from Hackcollege.com that you can save to you computer for quick reference (I just found it!) Get more out of Google