My first nugget comes from an online book, which prohibits me from interacting with it too much physically. (cutting/pasting, highlighting) I was very struck by one of the introductory paragraphs about a class started at the University of Tulsa made to encourage the students to ask “Why” and “who cares?” when examining research. Sound familiar? It should! That’s exactly what this class is trying to do! Or at least, what I am trying to take away from this class. The Tulsa class is even called “Inquiry of Communication”, so clearly VCU is hopping on a popular train here. This book claims that “those questions are critically important to research, not merely because they should drive scholars to justify their work or simply because they might give us insight into the motivation(s) of scholarship, but rather, they engage the scholar and reader in a conversation about values.”
I think this sentence stuck out more to me so far than any other throughout this class. This perfectly describes both what this course is trying to teach us, as well as what I am researching and advocating — finding personal interest in value in the research of others. Because if we can’t care, why should anyone else? Why bother? The pursuit of knowledge should be invigorating and intrinsic in nature. Unfortunately it so rarely is. I bet I could interview everyone in this class about being forced in the past to research topics they couldn’t give two … piles of feces … about. Everyone knows that feeling and it is the most soul crushing and uninspiring one there is. We need to bring back positive associations with research and allow students to include their field of genuine interest in whatever mandatory project they are completing. I am very excited to have found this nugget because it gives me hope about finding more published works along the same lines.
Speaking of which…Nugget #2!
My second nugget consists of the three results found from a study on how modern students conduct research.
A majority of students began their research by consulting course readings or the library’s Web site for online access to scholarly journals. To a lesser extent, students used Yahoo!, Google, and Wikipedia as first steps.
Most students consulted aggregated research resources — many of which had been identified for their scholarly quality by professors, librarians, or library databases.
Many students were challenged by research tasks, especially selecting and evaluating information and figuring out professors’ expectations for quality research.
These results are followed by a pie chart displaying that 40% of students started their research with the specified course reading, followed by 23% using their school’s internet library. Only about 3% of students claimed that Wikipedia was their first step in research, which I actually found surprisingly low. However the sample size was small so that may have something to do with it. Or maybe I need to give students the benefit of the doubt and maybe they actually jump straight into the deep end. I also found it interesting that the results specified how many students needed to be referred to aggregate resources by their professors or other institutional help. Does this mean students are not taught at a young enough age how to conduct scholarly research? Do middle school students need some course equivalent to “Inquiry of Communication”? (see nugget above). Maybe if we encourage students to get interested in research at a younger age they would have an easier time getting started in higher education classes.
In summary, I think both of these nuggets, in different ways, support my claim that students need to be taught how to follow their passion in an academic environment. Through proper research training and broad prompts students will move from Wikipedia linksurfing to in depth database searching, all in the pursuit of knowledge rather than in the pursuit of an A.