Many students use print or online study guides like CliffsNotes, SparkNotes or others, not just in place of reading assigned texts in their entirety, but as guides to comprehension and interpretation and as study aids. Do you use resources like these? Why or why not, and if so, how?
A Personal Tech reporter asked a professor to review several study guides. The article shared his reviews and discussed the increased use of these resources:
What has changed is how many study guides, or cheat sheets, are available online and on mobile phones. Whether you know them as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes or Shmoop, these seemingly ubiquitous guides are now, in many cases, free.
“Two to three years ago, the wisdom was that students do research online, but not study online,” said Emily Sawtell, a founder of McGraw-Hill’s online collaborative study site called GradeGuru. “That has changed in the last 12 months.” Ms. Sawtell said she had tracked a significant increase in the search term “study guide” on Google.
Professors warn that these guides are no substitutes for reading great works of literature, but concede, grudgingly, that as an adjunct, they can stimulate thought and deepen insight.
“The problem is when you use a study guide in place of the original book,” said Cary Nelson, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and president of the American Association of University Professors. “Then they have knowledge that is not just superficial, but wrong.”
Students: Tell us about your use of study guides. Do you ever read them instead of reading an assigned book? How has that worked out for you? Have you found that these guides help you understand or interpret assigned reading, or do they limit your thinking? Do you “own up” to your teachers about using them, or do you hide it? Why?
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