Monday, August 29, 2011
RESEARCH PAPER OR NOT?
New York Times; The Opinion Pages
Are Research Papers a Waste of Time?
Room for Debate, Will Fitzhugh
Has the Internet made research papers a useless exercise for college students? Is there a better way to assess knowledge?
Knowledge and the Individual
Updated August 28, 2011, 05:45 PM
Will Fitzhugh is the founder of The Concord Review, since 1987 the only journal in the world for the academic research papers of secondary students.
The Internet can supply information—tables, charts, lists, graphs, facts—but that information is manufactured. Knowledge has to be handmade by each individual; the Internet cannot supply it.
If students abandon the research paper, they will miss the only discipline that can reveal to them the accuracy and integrity of their own thoughts.
To make knowledge, which is the foundation of learning, it is necessary to apply thought to information, to think about the facts that have been gathered, and this is work only an individual can do. Reading books can help a person discover how others—with more information, experience and wisdom—have thought about a subject, but there is no better way to comprehend, consider and digest information for oneself than to write a serious paper.
A research paper can show the student whether he or she has really understood as much as he or she supposed about a subject. The exercise of writing helps a student to organize and examine the information gathered in a careful way.
Sir Francis Bacon wrote in 1625 that “Reading maketh a Full man, conference a Ready man, and writing an Exact man.” If students abandon the research paper, they will miss the only discipline that can reveal to them the accuracy and integrity of their own thoughts. The Internet can be a supermarket of information to assist such efforts, and books and fine teachers can also help, but the real effort of acquiring knowledge belongs to the student, and there is, at least in the humanities, no better work for the student to undertake than a serious research paper.