Guest Author - D. Lynn Byrne, Ph.D.
The internet is a wonderful tool for researchers. You can find anything and everything you ever wanted--and some of it you don't want--just by tapping into the web from your home keyboard. Its terrific! But, is it a terrific tool for graduate students who are in the process of writing research papers? Mmm... there's the kicker. Not all professors at all universities find the internet a wonderful thing. Why? Why? Why?
Here are the top five reasons professors cite most often in their refusals to allow graduate students to use internet research to support their writing.
#1. The source of the "research" is questionable. Professors just seem to have a hard time believing that any legitimate writer/researcher would allow his/her work to be published online.
#2. The information posted to the internet is misleading. There are too many vagaries and flaws in the information posted online.
#3. The information posted is entirely secondary in nature. It cannot be used for anything other than background information.
#4. The only research papers posted online are those that weren't accepted by legitimate, peer-reviewed publications. The data is next to worthless.
#5. Graduate students who resort to the internet for research demonstrate a lack of understanding of proper research techniques. Research papers must demonstrate not only understanding of the topic; but understanding of the research methodology in general.
Is your brain a little boggled by this reasoning? I know mine is. "Legitimate" researchers submit articles to online, peer-reviewed publications (i.e. "scholarly journals") all the time. Yes, the data is secondary data; but the data you find in your local university library is also secondary data. This sort of data is used for background and filler. Only if you're doing a literature review would you consider citing this info as a pseudo-primary resource. As for the "worth" of the data, that's entirely in the mind of the researcher and his/her committee/review panel. If the article is written by a scholar and posted in a peer-review, scholarly journal, then its very likely to have merit. As far as use of the internet proving that a student demonstrates a lack of understanding of "proper research techniques" - bah! The researcher still needs to know up from down in order to understand the article he/she is downloading.
Personally, I think some profs are just a little too obsessed with paper. But then, I'm not your professor, am I?
Until next time!