Imagine that you’re a teacher- a high school history teacher. Now, say you asked your students to research information on World War Two. You did this to preparation for a 10 page essay you wanted them to write (I know, you’re nice teacher). You give the students two weeks, one week to research and a second to write the paper.
Okay, so week passed, and you decided to check up on your students’ progress. The first student seemed to have done a lot of work. But as you look closer, there is one major flaw in their research. The validity of this student’s sources are questionable, to say the least. They are all from conspiracy theorist’s blogs and online forums such as ask.com and redit. This student even had the nerve to cite historical fiction novels that claim that World War Two was fought between werewolves and vampires.
Naturally, you’re a little distressed. You wonder what negligent disappointment of a teacher taught that child how to research. Shaking your head you decide to see how the next student is doing. There you find the most pleasantly unpleasant surprise. The good thing is, this child had very credible sources. He/she (whatever floats your boat) took information from scholarly websites such as Harvard and National Geographic. Coming from that previous student, you couldn’t be more proud. Actually, that’s not true. You could be much prouder. It turns out, this student decided that World War Two was stupid, and that a research paper on butterflies would be much more fulfilling.
At this point, you’re quite steamed. After giving that student quite an earful, you proceed to the next child. You wonder if there is good left in the world. You start question why you gave up your promising career as a clown to become an educator of youths. Just as you’re ready to give up on life, you look at the third student’s research.
This student had a history of procrastinating and putting in little effort into their assignments. That would explain your shocked expression when you discovered that he/she had already finished their entire paper. It had appropriate sources, proper formatting, and it was actually about the assigned subject! Your heart fills with joy as you continue to read through the paper. It has a wonderful, erudite prose that you had never seen from a high school student. In fact, you had seldom seen such wonderful writing a college student. Based on the paper’s intellectual grasp on the material, it seemed like the work of a doctorate student. Horaah, you say to yourself, I have just tapped into the potential of a budding genius.
It’s too good to be true, you think to yourself. And indeed it is. This student plagiarized the entire paper from a historian’s website. After discovering this you are so disappointed humanity that you storm out of the class room. You march towards the principle office and angrily and verbally give him/her your letter of resignation. As you leave, you causally mention that if the principle needs a clown at his or her child’s next birthday, to give you a call.
Okay, you can stop imagining now. What I just went to great lengths to explain is that researching methods should not be taken lightly. How you research is nearly as important as what you research. While it is important to research the correct topic (ask student two), the types of sources we use play a big role in the success of our research. All sources were not created equally. Some sources do a better job of bringing credibility to our work. Others excel in giving us a better grasp of our topic. Some are super sketchy and should never be cited in our papers. And an even greater number a quite interesting, but have nothing to do with what we’re researching. How we research can be critical to the success of our endeavors (ask student one’s grade).
More so, how we use our research is of great importance. The great no-no of research is plagiarism. In most places, plagiarism can get you in a great deal of trouble. It can even lead to expulsion (ask student three).
Research is a great life skill. Whether you’re preparing to write an essay on crocodile’s social patters or whether you’re just interested in why cows moo, how we research is of great importance. Besides, you don’t want your history teacher to retire and become a clown, do you?
If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research.-Wilson Mizner