Online sources

I don’t quite understand what Carrie means when she talks about using Wikipedia.  I also nowadays rarely teach literature courses — though I do use literature in my Advanced Comp in the Natural Sciences and Tech courses. I regularly assign good science books, science classics, and sometimes relevant modern fiction.  So we spend about 1/3 of the term doing a research paper on how medical science really functions or is used in the subculture of medical treatments, and (the last 3 terms) we read Danielle Ofri’s _Singular Intimacies_ and John LeCarre’s _Constant Gardener_.

I do use online sources though. Perhaps I will be just re-inventing the wheel when I say this or not saying something sufficiently generally applicable.  But here it is:  at GMU we have vast databases of journals, newspapers, all sorts of sources.  I require that my students use these and I have exercises to get them to.  In general, the response is very positive. I’ve discovered many junior level students at GMU are unaware of the rich information at their disposal through their password. They are going to less rich or inferior or only partly relevant sites open to the public because they don’t know about these.

I’ll get as a thank you in the evaluation, one of the things they appreciated most was my showing them these databases.


2 responses to “Online sources

  1. David Mazella


    I think the idea was that Carrie S. was asking students to create wikis on topics, not use Wikipedia.

    But what kinds of exercises did you use to teach them to explore these databases?


  2. Ellen,

    I think that it’s crucial to teach students how to access the databases available to them and understand the difference between academic / scholarly articles and other types of publications. You’re right–students often don’t know the resources available to them–or even that they have a password to access the rich elements of the library’s database from home.

    But it’s also important to teach students how to navigate the WWW in an intelligent and savvy manner. There’s alot of inferior stuff out there as you point out. But there is also quite a bit of material (and for historians, digitized archives) that are not available through our library’s website but through extensive searching on the internet. Teaching students to read and evaluate websites is an important component to undergraduate education. Carrie’s idea of having students create wikis was talked about on the old long eighteenth I think. I thought it a clever idea as it would require students to conduct the academic research and then publish the fruits of their research. All three of these elements are necessary, I think, in an age of the internet.