Using Books in ResearchWith all the sources available online, do you think students should be required to includes print sources when doing a research paper?

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boblawrence | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I believe there is merit in asking the student to include actual books or other printed sources (newspapers, journals) for two reasons.  First, the student needs to learn how to use a library.  Second, she must learn the difference between the casual search for information and scholarly pursuit.

The Internet is a magnificent, extremely quick source of information on almost any topic.  The problem is the reliability of the data.  For any item found on the web, it is almost impossible to verify its true source.  Most of the material on the Internet has been typed into the system by someone.  Did the typist miss a word or two, or possibly a whole section?  Did he purposely alter the information?

The student needs to learn about reliability of information sources.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Books teach us valuable thinking skills that we don't get from using the internet. For instance, having to search for information in an index is very different than typing in a keyword online. A student doing research on Japan would have to think about other topics that might include information besides just googling "Japan." Using an index and searching the actual textbooks uses a different part of the brain. It also teaches students the process that computers like Google use to generate search results. After some practice, students who have used 'old fashioned' books will learn to be more effective online. They will understand how the search process actually works and be better at using alternative reference sources.
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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I agree completely that a range of sources should be used, and that students need to be taught to use all types of source material judiciuosly and wisely. I was amazed at how even my senior students considered research to be reading the first 10 google postings, and extensive research was going beyond page 2.

That said, I also appreciate the wide range of valuable resources that the internet has given us - In 1989 my own research required me to locate an obscure Disney Public Information film. I had to travel across the UK to just watch it on a library video copy: now takes seconds to download the same film from Youtube. We need to be stressing the quality of sources, not the weight of them. Variety, validity and relevance are key in my opinion. The internet has much to offer once students are able to discern a valid source from a poor one.


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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Books--actual books--are a valuable research teaching tool. Students learn to find what they need or want manually rather than just typing in a keyword and "jumping to text" to read that little snippet. There is much to be said for discovery and having to work a bit; my students have discovered some delightful surprises as they do research with books. Other technologies are certainly useful; but there is something good about having a book to explore which is, to me, valuable thing to experience.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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For those who have extended background learning already, the resources of the Internet may be sufficient or may otherwise provide a good starting point for further study. For school-aged students, however, who are in the process of building that background of learning, the Internet may hinder more than help. Accessing quick summary bites of complied information is not the most conducive for either (1) building a deep background of knowledge or for (2) training the mind to be a reservoir of deep (and broad) knowledge. I am reminded of a favorite quote from a Roddy McDowall classic movie, Molly and Me with Monty Woolley and Gracie Fields, in which Woolley says regarding the study of geometry: "It is good exercise for the brrrain ...!" To borrow a phrase from accessteacher, let us not forget that part of the aim of education is to build strong and flexible brains that think and inquire successfully. In summary, I think books are still essential to a sound education, which encompasses much more than the acquisition of information.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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I think it is certainly appropriate for teachers to require the use of printed source material, although modern students' disdain for the old fashioned "book" will probably make it an unpopular decision. I believe it's excellent practice for a student to search through longer sources for specific citations, although I agree that many can now be found online.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think we as teachers have a responsibility to make sure our students are able to use all kinds of different sources in their research, rather than just focusing on one to the exclusion of others. Whilst I do think that unfortunately ebooks and efiles are something that are only going to become more and more common, books are still a vitally important part of our cultural heritage and history, and their length and design allows for a much more in-depth treatment of issues and topics compared to short and snappy web pages.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I discourage students from using only online sources because so much of what they find is unreliable.  The advantage of using "old school" print resources is that they have gone through an editing process where one can expect (most of the time anyway) that the research is generally more accurate or at least follows some accepted standards of academic proof.

Online resources can still be very useful of course, as long as you carefully discriminate between simple sites with opinions, or user generated encyclopedias and actual research.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I think it is very valid to require print sources for research. Although all the information can probably be found online, it is always good to stay fresh on how libraries and "old fashioned" books work, in case there is ever a time that electronic information becomes unavailable to the general public.

Also, it allows students to access sites like the SDLN (or South Dakota Library Network) which we have in our state...where they can look for, download, print, and read scholarly print documents from around the world.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Depending on the age of the student and the quality of the library resourses available to them, I think it is completely appropriate to ask them for a non-electronic source -- especially if you know there are good sources out there for them.  I used to require print sources for literary analysis, but I have found that more and more of the old "print sources" are now available online in ebook fashion.  I would also suggest you have your students think outside of the computer and the library -- things like interviews, surveys etc. are another way for students to stretch their understanding of research.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I completely agree. I am "old school". I want a book in my hand, papers to sift through. I agree that using strictly e-files to do research does not offer a complete picture. The only way to go, for me, is getting the paper cuts!!

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that it probably is still useful to require print sources, depending on what you're assigning.  For me, the reason is that online sources don't tend to be as long and involved as books.  If you have assigned something where that sort of complex source is needed, then books are the way to go.  However, I don't have any moral reasons for thinking that there should always be print sources simply because they are print.

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valie77 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

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i think that books are more thurror than the internet seeing anyone can write and post something on the internet and as we all know everyone makes mistakes which means that the texts are often wrong, badly written or just plane rubbish. so personnaly i think books are much, much better ways of studying, working, doing essays, etc...

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