I’ve assigned many research projects in my time as a teacher. Perhaps you have, too. Research, the process of looking and re-looking at the way an issue or idea has been explored, is a vital part of learning.
Perhaps you, like me, have assigned research projects that required that students cite their sources, and perhaps you, like me, wanted to make sure your students went deeper than a quick Google search and the top five hits for whatever search term or terms they happened to type in the first time they went looking.
So maybe you, like me, made a requirement of the project that students had to include one or more “print sources,” materials that couldn’t be downloaded from the Web.
If so, maybe you have this question, too:
What does “print resource” mean anymore? Has it become a meaningless term?
Let’s consider for a moment what used to count. An article from a newspaper was, in my classroom, considered a print resource. How about now? I’m more likely to read my local paper online than I am to read the print edition. Is an article from the newspaper still a print resource?
How about a magazine article? When I was in middle and high school, one of the great resources at the local library was a collection of magazine articles on CD-ROM databases. Even then, a magazine article wasn’t a print source, but it counted as one. Maybe because I was required to turn in a printout of the article with the final draft of my papers.
Encyclopedias? By high school, encyclopedias shouldn’t be cited by anyone, much less count as sources. But they did, and often do.
So might I humbly suggest a small change to any assignment that requires students to provide a “print” resource? Ask them for a primary source instead.
The print/electronic binary is over. Dead. (And I do so dislike saying that something’s “dead.” But the difference between print and electronic is a meaningless difference, at least when we’re talking research. ) The transmission medium that delivered the message might not be the most important consideration in student research. And print stuff still matters – but not if it’s included solely because it’s on a piece of paper.
Ask students to think, instead, about primary and secondary sources. And later, after you’ve mastered that, ask them to think about the difference between citationality and attribution, and why that might matter in their research. And yours.