Researching the 21st Century Way

Guest blog by: LeighAnn Tamplen.

Ask anyone over the age of 35 how he or she conducted research during college, and you are likely to hear tales of hours squandered in the campus library thumbing through card catalogs and futile attempts to locate outdated microfiche reels.  Indeed, these methods of research sustained the academics who came before us; but efficient, they were not. Fast forward to the millennium, the information age, where copious amounts of information is available at our fingertips.  Inspiring minds have instant access to information while at home, sitting in the classroom, or on the go.

Having access to endless information has its challenges.  Do students actually know how to sort credible and un-credible information?  The students of today are great at “googling” a question and writing down the first thing that pops up, but how can we help them learn to sort through the information in order to find credible answers?  Might I suggest you return to the library….the digital library, that is?  Most schools have access to on-line databases, such as Gale.  The Gale databases in our library have endless access to books, scholarly articles, academic journals, newspapers, as well as audio and video files.  With a user friendly application called “Topic Finder,” students can type in a key word and the topic finder will give the student subcategories of information to help narrow their search.  From there, all the student has to do is click on and read the article.  In addition, the database provides the students with proper citation information to include in their bibliography.

To start, assign your students something simple, like summarizing an article.  That would give them practice locating articles in the database.  Then, when they have gotten the hang of it, move on to something more complex, like writing an essay.  There is a small learning curve at first but there are also a multitude of benefits to teaching the students how to conduct research using credible sources.  Just as the adult academic felt extreme satisfaction upon finally discovering the correct source in the card catalog, so will the millennial when he or she is able to swiftly navigate an online database.  Contact your school’s librarian to see which digital resources are available to your students.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome!


Thank you to LeighAnn Tamplen for her amazing insights!!


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