"Tell me all you know" requests

ROBERT BOOT, HERSTON MEDICAL LIBRARY mail_boot at uqvax.cc.uq.oz.au
Fri Sep 3 09:12:50 EST 1993

In article <00971E8D.4C6AD1C0.1436 at UDCVAX.BITNET>, hkaplan at UDCVAX.BITNET (Howard Kaplan) writes:
> hi my name is cynthia I am a grad student at etsu
> looking for information on the use of biotechnology in oil spill clean-up
> if you have any information or reference on this subject please send a
> mail message to the adress below. Currently writting thesis on this subject.
> thanks
> _________________________________________________________________

As a librarian, may I endorse the following comments. The extent to which the
net is being used by some to avoid the effort & joys of library research
disturbs me as well.
If such students have done a reasonable ammount of work themselves they could
at least give a short summary of the resources they *have* explored, if only to
save the rest of us from duplicating this.
I know these matters are addressed, in part, in various FAQs. This does not
seem adequate, especially while many (yes I am guilty too!) reward these people
by providing answers to these queries.

Others may have nobler motives than I. I often do it to show off & because it
is easy. A slightly less ignoble motive is that it is often easy to help
considerably at little cost to oneself.

I should be interested in other comments on this issue. As I have only been on
the net for a few months, I may have missed previous discussions on this.

> As a teacher and researcher, I find myself troubled by requests
> such as this which, not knowing Cynthia or her background, I am
> using just as an example of my concerns.  I would expect and hope
> that a student doing research, grad or undergrad, would have started out with an
>  idea of the topic and then have done a search of the literature to
> find out what had and hadn't been done and what is currently being
> done.  Then, they would reformulate their problem statement and
> begin focusing on how to attack the problem.  At this point, with
> some fairly specific questions, they would send off requests to
> computer lists.  If everyone were to start off with the "Tell me
> everything you know" request, they are bypassing one of the most
> important and, to a dedicated researcher, a most exciting part of
> research, the literature search, wherein lies much serendipity.  It
> is also an important skill that students must learn.  Furthermore,
> while the computer may ultimately be the repository for primary
> sources, it is still some way from that.
> So, to the Cynthias of the world, I would recommend that you dive
> into the school library, go through whatever they use for catalogs,
> bury yourself in the stacks (if they exist) and spend time reading and thinking.
>   You may enjoy the process.  If not, you will still have learned a
> valuable lesson.
>                                 Howard Kaplan
>                                 Professor of Microbiology
ROBERT BOOT                                             R.BOOT at cc.uq.edu.au
The University of Queensland                       Telephone +61 7 365 5354
Brisbane Qld 4072  AUSTRALIA                       Facsimile +61 7 365 5243

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