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.
My students are currently working on two projects: a digital story and a research essay. Both of these assignments require ample amounts of research using a variety of sources – books, academic journals, and yes, even websites. This time around, I took a moment to show my students Evernote, a handy little tool for organizing, well, everything. Better yet, it’s free! If you’re not familiar with Evernote, check out this introductory video below and be sure to visit their website.
I find Evernote especially useful to students who are trying to organize a variety of media for some type of presentation or research project. Its great search features and innate organizational tools help even the most disorganized student to “keep it together.”
For these particular assignments, I like to encourage my students to create a notebook for their project “Research Essay” or “Digital Story” will all work well. This is where they will store all of the material that they find for their topic.
Next, I make sure that they have downloaded and installed Evernote’s webclipper. This allows you to save anything that you pull up online – images, documents, videos, etc. It goes right into the folder that you select.
Now you may think “I don’t want them to just use the web.” However, remember, that many traditional resources are now digitized! Virtually all academic journals are hosted online via repositories like JSTOR. Many books are also hosted digitally via institutional databases or resources such as Google Books or Project Gutenberg. Even for those resources that are in traditional “paper” format, students can take pictures with their smart phones (preferably using a document scanner like Genius Scan that will enhance the images and store them as a grouped PDF) and then send those materials off to the same Evernote folder!
One of the best features of using the web clipper is that it includes the information students need to cite their sources. A struggle for many beginning scholars is that they are just learning about citation and copyright. Often, they do not realize they are missing key information until later, when they are formulating a bibliography or works cited page. This can be detrimental if the resource is no longer available or, worse yet, they don’t know where they found it! However, with Evernote and the Evernote clipper, it’s now all at their fingertips on any device (their computer, smart phone, or tablet). It’s phenomenal!
Perhaps the greatest feature of using Evernote and Evernote webclipper is that it truly does save time and energy. Instead of copy and pasting content and URL’s (hoping not to forget anything) into another document that you then email to yourself or put in the cloud, it’s all simply one click. Literally! Click it (perhaps add some notes and/or a few tags) and you’re done! Finito! Fertig! It’s all stored for you to go back and read over, think about, and organize into a final working piece.
I can tell you, I’ve never seen a piece of technology picked up as quickly as Evernote when my students begin their work on a new research project. Now… if I could just get them as eager about it when organizing their general course notes…. Perhaps a post for next time?