While teaching a class yesterday on the mechanics of writing a research paper in MLA (see previous post), I came to the conclusion that the following things are not being taught to students in High School or their early college years:
- When looking at a citation, name the kind of item.
- What information to include on a research paper, for example your name and the page numbers.
- How to include quotes in a paper.
- Why you include quotes in a paper.
- What a parenthetical reference is, where it goes, why it is important, and what is included in it.
- Why you still have to give credit for paraphrasing.
- How to punctuate quotes, for example ellipses and brackets.
I could go on and on. The amount of things my students do not know about information resources (What is a journal? If I find a journal on a database, it is â€œon the webâ€?) boggles my brain. My uncle, who now insists we all call him Dr. Uncle on account of his new PhD, he said he frequently has graduate students who do not know these things. Graduate students!
Where are we failing? I know that the onus is not all on librarians to fix this. We will have to work with our faculty and in our schools to have more research added to the curriculum. We should at least try to make professors aware that their students do not posses skills we assume they have been taught. Students also must be pushed to produce a higher level of papers. They should be required to document their sources, sources that are good and reputable.
I know in my instruction sessions, I am going to assume less and ask more of my students. I will point out different things, parts of a citation in a results list, for example.
Every teacher has the capacity to reach at least one new student in every class. Who do you want to reach today?
–Jane, otherwise why would we bother teaching students at all