The Research Paper
Teaching a research paper has to be the hardest thing I’ve ever taught, especially in the era of the kids having all the information coming to them, pre-packaged. They all need my help, and they all need it at once. Despite the pep-talks before hitting the library, despite any attempts to impress upon them the need to HAVE THEIR TOPIC READY, and despite the attempt to encourage them to DO MORE RESEARCH, they leave the library befuddled and confused and completely research-less.
The laugh and whine and kvetch because they don’t know what’s going on,
"I need a topic!" they cry.
Student: I can’t find anything in the library about Swine Flu!
Me: Of course you can’t find anything about Swine Flu in the library, it’s new, what might you find that’s related to swine flu that could help your research?
Student: I don’t know! I just want to know about Swine Flu!
Me: Well, what are you researching?
Student: Everything about Swine Flu.
Me (trying not to grit my teeth): What specifically? Are you trying to find out what might happen if it spreads?
Me: Well, why don’t you find out what has happened in the past that might be able to tell you what will happen now?
Student: Like, research other flu outbreaks?
Me: Yes, find a book about influenza.
Student: Okay, where are those?
Me: Look it up
Me: The catalog!
Student: Where’s that?
Me: On the computer
10 minutes later
Student: How do I look it up?
Me: Go to this website.
Me: Type in the subject you are looking for.
Student: Nothing turns up, what now?
Me: Try again with a different term. Instead of swine flu, try "influenza".
Student: Yay books! How do I find them?
And yes, it goes on…and on…through teaching this student about call numbers, and then how to use the table of contents to find the specific section, and then how to take notes as she is reading… And while I’m doing this time consuming tutoring, the other students are just as needy. Argh…