While I both struggled with and agreed with Purdy and Walker’s claims about the research methods we practice versus the research methods we preach, I was left with more questions than answers. I agree with their assertion that we should be incorporating the existing research habits of students, yet I had a hard time understanding their call for more in-depth research on this subject. Maybe this is my stereotypical understanding of the academic and non-academic research habits of students, because for a few years in Junior College they were my research habits, but never the less I think I can sum it up in two words: Google. Wikipedia.
I believe that 99.999% of students know that Wikipedia is not a scholarly source, I still think that is where they go 9 times out of 10 for the answer to their questions, academic or otherwise. Even those of us who are not in this liminal space use Wikipedia’s vast array of knowledge to understand more about the world around us. Do we recognize that we are not engaging in scholarly research? Of course we do. But for any student trying to understand a complex term, or figure out who won the War of 1812, Wikipedia is a quick and dirty means of getting the answer.
During our 30 workshop on Friday I found myself using Wikipedia to help explain the theory of Six Degrees of Separation to a student. Did they feel cheapened that I didn’t pull out a scholarly or peer reviewed article? I doubt it. How much academic vernacular would they have encountered if I showed them an article on activity theory? Would it have even applied to them? Probably not. In my experience when a student has trouble understanding a basic concept, leading them to a full scholarly and peer reviewed article can often lead to more confusion, not less. Plus many of our students don’t even know where to start when it comes to a library search. Keywords are a tricky business. If you put in “Six Degrees of Separation” into the Library’s Research Station, you come back with search results relating to: biophysics, criminal justice, film studies, African American literature, and sex studies. That’s enough to make a student’s head spin.
One of the biggest issues that I had with this text was thinking, “okay, now how to we do this?” Maybe I’ve spent too much time researching literature, articles and criticism from years and years ago that I’m not familiar or comfortable with research methods outside the library. I can identify a scholarly and peer reviewed source, but I have more trouble identifying blogs or articles that don’t come from obvious scholarly places. I struggle even further when thinking about new articles and the apparent bias that comes from many news agencies. So if I am experiencing these struggles, I can’t imagine what our students (our liminal students) are dealing with.