Monday, March 15, 2010

Doing Research

Today a teenager asked me (well, ok, her mom asked me...) where she might find a DVD about cloning. She was doing a research paper that required three different sources. As it turned out, we didn't have a DVD on this subject, so I asked if we might find a video online. No, no, no...she needed three sources and was not allowed to use the Internet for any of them.

Wait, no Internet? OoooooKaaaaaay...

In lieu of a video source, she could use any three different sources. She already had a book. Any three different sources EXCEPT...

Databases counted as one source. Seriously. The teacher's rule was that you could get ONE item - journal, newspaper, encyclopedia, video, whatever - from a database. The teacher was actually counting "database" as one source. Not a technique or a delivery method or a source of various different types of sources, but an actual source itself. That's just not right! You don't cite a database, you cite the information gleaned from the database. They are absolutely filled with potential information on cloning! Reliable, authoritative, current information! I'm getting a bit worked up again.

What did we do, then? We considered cheating. Let's use the database to find a magazine article, then go to the actual shelf to get the actual, physical magazine. Nevermind that we could have just clicked "print" and had the article via the database. If the teacher considered a magazine an acceptable source, a magazine she shall have!

The student then said that she could use an encyclopedia, and it would count as a separate source from the book she already had. (She just couldn't get the encyclopedia entry from the Internet or a database!)

Bottom line: we need to educate parents, teachers, and students about our wonderful online databases. They need to understand:
1. that they can use them remotely
2. that they should cite the source, not the database
3. that the Internet is just a delivery method, not the source, in the case of databases.
4. that databases are not primary sources, but may contain primary sources.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Holly! This problem also afflicts librarians at the college level, when students are told by instructors that they are not allowed to use "encyclopedias." The instructor probably means "don't use World Book" but the student thinks that all titles containing the word "encyclopedia" are off-limits. So they avoid the reference section like the plague, but DO use stuff from Wikipedia...whatever!