Thursday, October 20, 2005

Understanding Research

One issue that is problematic in today’s society is that many consumers of information simply seek the information they are already familiar with and go no further. Hence you have Fox News which takes a very predictable line and goes to all ends to comfort its viewers. Or you have Rush Limbaugh who admits he only takes one point of view because he doesn’t trust others with differing points of views to tell the truth!!

Not only does this one-sided but comfortable approach produce vulnerable citizens, it also produces consumers who are easily scammed and students who get little if anything of value out of their college education. Unless students learn rigorous critical thinking skills, they will be of little use to employers who are faced with the demands of the rapidly shifting global market place.

One small measure in dealing with this issue is to cause all my students to write research papers in which they are required to thoroughly cover the opposing points of view. This doesn’t mean they have to end up agreeing with those other views, but they do need to structure their own argument around acknowledging that opposing views exist for just about every issue and finding the holes in those views.

Sometimes the result is surprising. I’ve had more than one student actually change their draft thesis statement after getting further into the research and discovering that the opposing views make sense after all!!

Although this task can be complex and difficult, fortunately Helmke Library provides two databases that are student friendly and tailored precisely to the discovery of opposing views. One is Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, from Thompson-Gale. This database has a lovely index on the home page with many topics often enjoyed by today’s students, plus it has an adequate search engine. The database reports back articles under “tabs,” so if multiple tabs are operational be sure to click on each tab, for different kinds of articles (academic, newspaper, web sites, etc.). Unfortunately citing these articles is difficult, but there is a link at the top of the page called “Help” which takes you to another link called “Citing Online Reference Works” which will show you how to cite Gale-supplied articles.

Another very topical database that examines multiple points of view is CQ Researcher, brought to you by the same folks who put out Congressional Quarterly. The home page of this database always lists this week’s hot topics, and it is very easy to cite, with a link on the bottom left corner that says “How to Cite.”

Really, then, the only excuse in today’s Information Age for not knowing both sides of a story (although I would argue there are usually many sides to a story!) is pure laziness.


At 11:20 PM, Blogger thePotandKettle said...

It is so important to fact check information. Someone needs to call Oprah and let her in on this new idea!


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