The Great Research Disaster

Article excerpt

I came across the following account accidentally stapled to the back of a fairly decent sophomore research paper. I feel compelled to share it, regardless of what kind of trouble I might get into from its author, one Liw Ekdab. The world Liw has moved into should give us all cause for concern. Read on.

THE TEXT OF THE STUDENT'S LETTER

Note to self-type this up before you send it to the student newspaper.

So I had to do this essay for my mod hist class, and I have to tell you I'm done with libraries. I mean, give me a break! Clunky search engines, can't find the articles I want even when the prof tells me what they are. Nobody lets you use Google. And you don't want to ask those librarians anything- they all look so superior.

Me, I'm not what you'd call a model student. Sure, I know college is my ticket to the future and all that, but then along comes another research paper. I hate them. At least I've wised up about libraries. Nothing works like it's supposed to. The technology is rough; nothing makes sense. The only thing a librarian ever did for me was one of those orientation classes. I slept through it, so that wasn't any kind of help at all.

This time, I'm going straight to Google. Sure, the prof said no websites, but Google has books, right? And that Google Scholar has articles. I bet I could put together a paper from pieces of Google and never come near a library or even a library website. I bet I could write a paper good enough to get at least a B+.

Right away there's a problem- my topic is the looting of the [Iraq] National Museum of Baghdad during the Iraq War in 2003. That means I won't find any thing in old books, and Google Books doesn't let you see much of the new ones. Could be a challenge. Google Scholar likewise. I tried it once- couldn't figure out what I was looking at. Some of the sites asked you to pay, others were books .... Still, I think this is a better plan than trying to figure out the library. Who knows? Worth a try at least.

WIKIPEDIA

I've heard it a bunch of times: "Don't use Wikipedia. If I see a Wikipedia article in your bibliography, you get a zero for your paper." But I know it's the go-to place for the background you need. And Wikipedia didn't let me down for this one. I found a great article on the National Museum of Iraq.

I read it for background, OK? I wasn't planning to quote from it or anything. And the article had links at the end. One was for the website of the Smithsonian [Institution], with an article on the Iraq War and the looting of the museum. It's a website, but the Smithsonian? I think I can slip that into my paper. And I found a link to a journal article from American Journal of Archaeology. The whole article. How great is that?

GETTING BOOKS

So I needed books. I opened Google Books and searched on Iraq War museum. Lots of results. Some of them, of course, had no preview, but I found enough to give me a decent book list. Google Books doesn't give very good citations, but I noticed a "Find this book in a library" link that took me to something called "WorldCat" where there was actually a link to get me good MLA citations.

I wasn't planning to cheat, but it was easy to fudge a bit. I mean, I'm no plagiarist, so I wanted to use citations for everything, but this Google Books search engine didn't give me much for some of the books I used. The first one, Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection After the Iraq War, only had a "snippet" view, and I mean a snippet. Like a Twitter tweet. I could only get a couple decent sentences out of it, but I used them. The first said that the looting of Iraq's cultural heritage had really gotten very little ongoing press. The second said that the U.S. had not signed onto the international conventions and protocols for protecting cultural property. I think the next part said that U.S. troops tried to follow those conventions anyway, but I'm not 100% on it, because part of that page was torn off. …