I came across an interesting blog post titled â€œAre Databases Killing Research?â€ at a blog called BarBlog. The faculty member blogging this post suggests that because library databases (Iâ€™m assuming he means the databases to which the library subscribes as opposed to search engines) are relatively easy to search, they donâ€™t teach students about the research process. Itâ€™s true that full-text bloated library databases make it fairly easy for students to satisfice their research, but at least connecting with a library database can allow for some discovery and better use in the future. A more significant issue is how are students learning to think critically about research.
The author may not realize that is a huge concern for librarians, and that much of our information literacy effort is about helping students to become critical thinking-researchers. While not being overly critical of academic library databases, the author states that students need to do more â€œrealâ€ research which by his definition is primary research – doing interviews, delving into documents and artifacts, getting oneâ€™s hands into archives. This type of research states the author, not â€œdata miningâ€ in library databases, contributes to learning and discovery. I donâ€™t dispute that, but I would argue that when used within the context of a well-designed assignment any number of library databases can contribute to constructive learning. Speaking of assignments, I do think thereâ€™s an interesting suggestion here that faculty should stop focusing on the writing of papers and focus instead on the gathering of data and the research process. I think thatâ€™s an idea that deserves further exploration.
In general, 21st century research should be about being well-versed in all possible information sources. That includes library databases, search engines, books, e-journals, and even primary documents. Students should be aware of the entire spectrum of information resources, and know when to use which for a particular type of research project. Faculty members are welcome to point out their concerns about over reliance on any particular resource to the detriment of students being aware of others, but ultimately they are responsible for working with librarians to develop appropriate research assignments that enable students to develop the ability to think critically about their choice and use of all information resources.