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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Cengiz: Students need required information literacy

By Andrew Cengiz

The U is one of the leading colleges in the nation when it comes to research in several areas. Sadly, this may only apply to faculty. U students are losing their ability to perform critical research.

Wikipedia is an online “encyclopedia” in which the general public is allowed to make changes to the content at their own discretion. The fact that anyone can add to or take away from it makes Wikipedia an unreliable source for information. However, students are increasingly using inaccurate information from Wikipedia and similar sites for their academic information. Such inaccuracies cannot be tolerated on the university level. The U needs to launch a campaign to get students off Wikipedia and onto the Marriott Library’s research databases.

First, the U needs to take great efforts to get students to stop using Wikipedia and similar sites for their academic research. Speaking at the University of Pennsylvania in June 2006, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales commented on e-mails he received from students who complained that they received failing grades because the information they cited from Wikipedia was wrong. “You’re in college; don’t cite (Wikipedia),” he said.

Wikipedia can be a great source for understanding the general idea behind a topic, but it does not go through the editing process and critique that academic materials must survive to be published. “People need to know that (Wikipedia and Google) are not a legitimate source,” said Kevin Marett, general reference desk assistant at the Marriott Library. “The problem is students are never taught how to use our article databases in which you can find articles and references from the world of academics.”

The best way to get students to stop using Wikipedia for academic research is to show them a better way.

Second, the U needs to do a lot more to inform students on the research tools available at the Marriott Library. The first thing the U can do to increase students’ research capabilities is to add a class to the general studies requirements that focuses specifically on teaching students how to use the library. “There is one class (at the U) that works specifically with the library and goes over how to research within the library, but the only other time you see it is in Writing 1010 or 2020 classes,” Marett said.

On top of that, this class is only available to freshman going through the LEAP program. The only other attempt at acquainting students with information literacy is done during one class-time of the general writing courses.

Putting the responsibility of research education on writing or other classes isn’t practical. “Most undergraduate students?have only remedial knowledge of how to use a library,” said Byron Cannon, history professor at the U. On getting students to do actual research he said, “To assign an actual monograph, representing the product of scholarly research?has become a futile endeavor.”

Dixie State College is one of many schools in the U.S. who require an Information Literacy course which, according to the class syllabus, “introduces students to college-level research and fulfills the General Education requirement for information literacy.”

Reference Librarian, Dianne Hirning, and instructor for the information literacy class said, “Professors have said the quality of the papers have increased significantly as far as being able to cite things correctly and finding research that is credible.”

This course also meets the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education set forth by the Association of College & Research Libraries. Under the direction of the Association, a growing number of colleges and universities are calling for an increase in research education. On their web site they state, “Developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher education institutions.” They feel a key ingredient to this development is “information literacy (which) is now considered by several regional and discipline-based accreditation associations as a key outcome for college students.”

Harvard, the University of Louisville and Penn State are just a few of many higher education institutions that have adopted comprehensive Information Literacy programs to maximize their students’ research abilities.

Research is not only crucial on the university level but in the workplace. With all the amazing resources at the Marriott Library, plus the new additions that are coming with the renovations, there needs to be an influx of research education at the U. Adding a required class to educate incoming students on how to do credible research in our library would be invaluable. The U needs to be one of the top research schools in the nation for both faculty and students.

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