“What do you think about the research paper we have to write in AP Lang?” “OMG, I’m just SO excited. I can’t wait to utilize my prowess in smart researching methods and employ credible and ethical research in my quest for ultimate knowledge!”
Said no one ever.
But why not? Many people, including myself, have heard the “Don’t plagiarize kids, hang on to your intellectual virtues!” (lol, did we ever have any?) speech numerous times. Most of us agree with the message- it’s bad to plagiarize- but there’s a common and incorrect mindset that “As long as I don’t plagiarize, I’m a good researcher!” However, exceptional (exceptional. Not merely “good”) research is more than “not plagiarizing”. How we research is just as important as what we research.
The Google and Grab: Have you ever Googled a topic then picked out the first few websites as your sources? I’ve done this on several assignments because, frankly, I was too lazy to dig deeper- to find sources that were fully pertinent to the issue, rather than ones that just grazed over the subject (I’m a changed person now, I’m not about that life anymore 🙂 ). I failed to realize how important it is to be willing to go the extra mile to establish sources that are reliable and relevant to the issue, even if the first sources that pop up contain correct information.
The Topic Twister: A common occurrence in research is finding a phrase from a site that sort of conveys information backing up your point, but not completely. The solution? Adding on words that weren’t originally included in the source (and not indicating this) or using part of the phrase out of context in order to twist the meaning in your favor. This is tantamount to signing up your friend against their will for the lawn bowling team so that you aren’t lonely. Not cool. If the source doesn’t back up your point, don’t force it to.
The Skim Shady: (if you get the reference, high-five!) I confess to participating in this somewhat scandalous activity. Quickly skimming over sources that contain extensive reading is so much easier to do than undertaking the usually tedious process of reading every word. I don’t think that skimming is always a bad thing, however, skimming a majority of your sources allows only for mediocre and shallow understanding of a work. And shallow doesn’t cut it for exceptional research.
Copy Pasting and a Bit of Tweaking: Ah! The saviour of middle school research papers. I think we’ve outgrown this, haven’t we? If you’re still doing this, may the literature gods help you. This not only robs you of the ability to critically read and reason, it is basically plagiarism.
These are just a few examples of poor researching habits. As you can tell, I’ve been involved in a number of them, but that goes to show that although I’m blogging about avoiding poor research, it doesn’t mean that I’ve been exempt from it.
So be alert, friends. Exemplary research is the in-thing now; sloppy research is so last season :p