Research Killer

I came across an interesting blog post titled “Are Databases Killing Research?” at a blog called BarBlog. The faculty member blogging this post suggests that because library databases (I’m assuming he means the databases to which the library subscribes as opposed to search engines) are relatively easy to search, they don’t teach students about the research process. It’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 “real” research which by his definition is primary research – doing interviews, delving into documents and artifacts, getting one’s hands into archives. This type of research states the author, not “data mining” in library databases, contributes to learning and discovery. I don’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 there’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 that’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.

One thought on “Research Killer”

  1. I can see how full text databases can make it look like research is suddenly easy, but maybe the design of the research assignment has to change in order to take advantage of the different types of informaiton sources that exist. It seems like some faculty members are giving assignments the same way the would have 20 years ago. While this might have been appropriate back then, it might be outdated given today’s technological advances. So, if a faculty member feels like using an online database is so easy and requires little research skills, then they might want to require a variety of different sources or assign them topics that would require critical thinking. I find that if a topic is complex enough, it will require some research skills regardless of what format is being used.

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