Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journal 8

"Updating the Research Paper" by Werner Liepolt

Liepolt's approach to student research papers is genius. Whereas all prior curriculums have instructed students to take notes and keep citations on notecards, Liepolt updates the process by integrating technology. With spreadsheet software, students can keep citation data, summaries, quotes, and notes all in one place and can therefore clearly label and keep track of where their information came from and what it is for. This method helps them generate a works cited page quite easily, as there would be a column in the spreadsheet for each of the required pieces of information for a proper citation. With the process that Liepolt has developed, students have the option of printing off their notes in notecard form, allowing them the best of both worlds then. As I read this article I was absolutely blown away by Liepolt's approach. In all of my own research papers, I have always been resistant to the notecard method because it just did not make sense to how I operated. To have a separate notecard for every note I wanted to make was tedious and inefficient when it came to sorting through the notes to write the final paper. Plus, I lost a lot of the notecards. Using spreadsheets just makes so much more sense! Instead of a separate notecard, there can just be a separate column, which ensures that students will collect the necessary information and will allow them the opportunity to add information easily as they see fit.

Q1: What would I have to learn in order to teach research practices in this manner?
A1: I am not comfortable with spreadsheets. As Liepolt pointed out, spreadsheets have been removed from research efforts and are now viewed as primarily good only for numerical data entry. My teachers have all fallen prey to this trend and thus my humanities course has not familiarized me with programs like Excel. I would have to become a pro at using Excel in a research setting before I could expect my students to use it facilely. Besides, I would love to integrate this method into my own research practices, so learning Excel would have a great personal benefit as well.

Q2: What are potential problems with this method?
A2: Spreadsheet software can be daunting to learn and difficult to teach. I would be worried that training students on the programs would take too much time away from the curriculum. However, if this approach became widely accepted enough, perhaps more schools would see Excel's value as a research tool and make more of an effort to teach it to students in a computer skills class. Also, I think that this approach would be so helpful in research strategies that I would probably be willing to take the time to teach it; it is a skill that will be necessary for students their whole lives. With keeping notes on the computer there is a worry that students will engage with the material less, and this can lead to plagiarism. When students actually copy notes and quotations onto the notecards, it gives them a chance to internalize the information, which allowed them better understanding and the realization that it was someone else's work. If students are just copy and pasting research from the Internet, the research is a lot more passive and students may not interact with the text as much. I think this worry is outweighed by the benefit of being able to see all the research laid out together. This is an interaction with the text in its own right.

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