The last session I am attending is “Google Docs & Research: How-To?” given by Christopher Craft, Ph.D. As I am using Google Drive with my students for an upcoming research project, I’m excited to learn more about the tools available here.
When students are doing research, they sometimes struggle with citing their sources or moving beyond a quick search with Google.com. The Google Docs Research Pane helps to facilitate searching for and citing sources. By going to Tools –> Research, the Research Pane pops up on the right hand side! You can search Google, images, scholar, quotes, and dictionary! By dragging and dropping certain content (e.g. images), not only will the material appear, but a footnote (in MLA, Chicago, or APA format).
A great element in using the Google Image search is that, when teaching students about copyright and usage rights, you can limit the Google Image search to “free to use or share.” This is key for work that is going to be published online. I highlight the need to address licensing in student projects in my article: “How to Find License Free Content for School Projects.”
Remember that this tool is not perfect. Students may need to fix formatting or bibliography. For example, if you do not want students using footnotes, they will have to revise the document to remove the footnotes and use in text citation. For my students, they would need to revise image citations for full content, such as for a work of art.
Another great tool for sophisticated research is Google Scholar. It is both a stand alone feature as well as a search option on the pane. You can look up academic content and, so long as you have access rights (e.g. via Jstor) you can read and include the citation properly. If you have not yet played with Google Scholar, it’s worth a look. Here’s a good introductory video (it’s 40 minutes so grab a snack!).
You can also search and input quotes! Not only can you find relevant quotes, but then it will put it in the document and then cite it. Again, it will cite as a website, so if you would like your students to format differently, then be sure to have students revise and edit!
These features also work on a shared format as well. This means that if you have a group of students working on a research project, you can see who added what and when. So is one student doing all the work and the others slacking off? Is Joseph doing research on Jstor but Stephanie is spending all of her time on Wikipedia? I like that this not only lets me see the amount of material students are contributing, but the quality of that research.
Another key feature is that by looking at the revision history, you can look for plagiarism. Using revision history, see if students are adding in chunks of texts or individual words. Using your own judgment, you can then select a section of text and do a quick search. If students create a bunch of citations at one time, then you may want to pull that student aside and ask them how they incorporated their research (Did they carefully revise and add footnotes as they went?) to see if that meshes with how the citation appears in the document. This is also a great tool when you consider the “document translation” feature. If all content was added at once, the student didn’t translate, they used the tool to do it for them.
There are a few draw backs to using the research pane. For example, there is not a way to seamlessly integrate outside research. If students are using books in your library in addition to web resources, they cannot easily include that in the research pane. Google Books is not currently integrated in the research pane either. They will have to manually input content and material.