No stolen words, please
Students must learn the ground rules when using materials found on the Web for their projects
— Photo: AFP
UNETHICAL: Many research students simply copy and paste material from the Net.
For a lazy student with a deadline nearing for an assignment, the internet is like a saviour. “Google” the net for the topic and thousands of web pages would open up, offering information at the click of a button. But not many students pursuing higher education seem to be fully aware of the dos and don’ts when it comes to exploring online resources for academic work.
“In universities abroad, there are strict parameters for students on how they should use online resources for academic work, but here very little has been done to guide students on how to use these resources,” says T.V. Gopal, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science, Anna University.
He says that with more and more students opting to do quick internet search for doing their assignments, the problem of plagiarism has come up in a big way. “Now, every professor has devised ways and means to check whether a piece of work submitted by the student has been simply cut, copied and pasted from the Net. Unfortunately, there are no measures available to check this practice,” he says.
When put to use in the right way, the internet can be a valuable resource for students. ‘Google Scholar,’ for instance, is a search facility that can throw up hundreds of articles from peer-reviewed journals for students to do reference work. R. Pavithra, an M.Phil student, says she found it easy to do the reference work for her essay on Shakespeare’s sonnets through the Google Scholar search facility.
“If I had gone to the library instead, I would have had to spend hours on end rummaging dusty shelves for books on Shakespeare. On Google Scholar I managed to find the exact sources I would need. Not all the texts were available but at least it was a good way to begin. I even managed to find a thesis submitted by a student at a university abroad on the same topic which helped me,” she says.
However, not all students are well-versed with use of the internet for academic work. G. Sundar, director of the Roja Muthiah Research Library, says for many students pursuing higher education in regional languages, the internet has very little to offer in terms of resources. “For many students here, even if their medium of instruction is English, they may face a language problem. In my opinion, the internet is a highly underutilised research tool in the academia here,” he says.
He says very few libraries have an online catalogue. “Even the University of Madras does not have information on its database online.” He adds that so far as social science subjects are concerned many of the online resources leave much to be desired.
Many universities and colleges, however, have access to online archives such as JSTOR and Science. Shabana Sultana, a final year M.Sc student of Science and Technology Communications from Anna University, says her college regularly puts up notices recommending websites which students could access for doing research work.
At a recent seminar, Steven Kerchoff, Information Resource Officer, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, had said it was essential for students to maintain “authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency and coverage” as the thumb rule of conducting research. “The basic rules such as attribution of sources and verification will help ensure the credibility of work produced through online research,” he said.
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