I’m just finishing grading essays for the online History of Psychology class I am teaching and am again struck by the students’ tendency to stick with a Google search when conducting research rather than go to the rich, online academic journal database the university provides for them.
Access to hundreds of online academic journals is one of the biggest perks of being a college student. With just a few clicks students have access to full text versions of just about any academic journal article they want, yet students often neglect this opportunity in favor for a quick Google query.
An important part of the college experience, and indeed one that prepares undergraduates for graduate school, is learning how to conduct higher-caliber academic research and integrate that research to make one’s own supported arguments. But, with how easy it is to conduct a quick web search, this appears to be a dying art (perhaps among academics too, which is scary!). How can we inspire students to avoid Wikipedia and Google and build stronger research skills by going to the virtual stacks?
Make it a Requirement
This sounds simple enough, but will intimidate new learners. Which is why numbers two and three are important.
Show Them How
If knowing how to conduct quality research is either a formal or informal learning objective in your class, then it is worth spending time teaching students how to use the stacks. Write or record a tutorial or conduct a synchronous session where you show students how to use the university’s library page and, in particular, the online journal databases.
Point Them to Resources
The school’s library team may already have a tutorial available, or a help desk that gives students direction. Provide the contact information or link for this service in your classroom.
Reward and Encourage Effort
If you read a student’s paper and they have made good efforts at using academic resources, make note of it in your feedback and make it clear that they getting a higher grade on their assignment for using this resource over another.
Direct Them to Google Scholar
If students are more comfortable with Google, they can find higher quality research here. Once they develop this habit, the “stacks” might be more approachable.
Emphasize the Discussion Section
We tend to blossom into better readers of academic journal articles in graduate school. But for undergrads, the articles themselves can be intimidating. We can start slow and encourage students to focus on the discussion section of each article to get the main points. This is a good place to start for them and provides them with more information than the article’s abstract will.
Highlight the Practical Benefits
More and better research gives way to more and better ideas. This makes the writing process easier and, as an added bonus, it helps students reach that minimum word count. That might provide some motivation!
I’d love to hear some of your ideas. Please comment below with them!