Research Skills are not everything – but close

Research Skills are not everything – but close

Library Research
Research Skills in Academia FAIL according to Berkeley study

Berkeley studies have confirmed what we have known and argued for years as a teacher of “legal research” – that very few people out there in academia have learned how to do research properly, and this includes the professors, where failing research skills are often mirrored in the incompleteness or even falsity of their articles in peer-reviewed journals.

We have been battling against this for years. See Megaliths.net, StarsStonesScholars and LexiLine.

The Law Pundit was lucky in his younger days on this score, laboring as a research assistant for professors throughout undergraduate and law school days and knowing the library inside and out.

In her article of January 21, 2004, Wendy Edelstein of the UC Berkeley News in Improving undergraduate research skills writes about some remarkable findings at Berkeley:

“[I]n a five-year survey of information-literacy competency conducted by Berkeley’s Teaching Library in the 1990s …results indicated that graduating Berkeley seniors were perplexed by elementary tasks involving organizing and accessing information. More specifically, the survey found, the median result in information-literacy competency among the surveyed seniors was a failing score.”[emphasis added by LawPundit]

Worse, in a follow-up study, professors themselves were tested and found that they were equally inept in research:

“Last summer, a number of Berkeley professors from a variety of disciplines were asked to research a group of Jewish chicken farmers in Petaluma, a topic well outside their respective academic purviews. Much like students might, they became overwhelmed, turning to databases they regularly use (and even, it can now be told, to Google) for help.”

Note that the study – in finding that professors when overwhelmed, turn to known resources – mirrors what we have found to be rampant in academia. When the mainstream is confronted with NEW ideas outside of what they think they know, they retreat to old well-trodden paths and ignore the new material. This is NOT science.

Worse than even that, in the course of these studies it was discovered:

“The humanities faculty were thrilled to learn that their teaching goals weren’t different from those of their counterparts in the sciences,” Tollefson continued. ‘They both prefer teaching concepts over facts.'”

We agree that it is more fun to teach “concepts”, but a review of the humanities in particular shows that they have often FORGOTTEN the facts. Each academic teaches his or her “concepts” – which is fine – but those concepts must be checked and researched AGAINST the facts and abandoned if the facts do not agree with the concepts. Many academics still have not learned this lesson.

To the credit of the Berkeley professors above, they subsequently changed their teaching to deal with the weaknesses found in the study.

Now, what about all the other academics out there who do not know that they have these weaknesses and are passing these research inabilities on to new generations of academics? We speak here particularly about academic disciplines outside of law.

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