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Diatribe: The Dreaded “Research Paper” And My Arch Nemesis “The Bibliography”.

02/03/2012

Does anyone else remember the dreaded “research paper”?  Index cards and card catalogues and the Dewey Decimal System have become virtually obsolete.  Students today have untold sources of data and information that those of past generations never dreamed of.  In seconds, they can find information on the internet that would have taken hours, or even days, to seek out in the stacks of a library.  They can even have sample essays and research papers prepared for them online by places like Oppapers.com.

In high school, I wrote a long report on King Louis XIV of France.  I worked on it for an entire semester.  I remember dozens and dozens of note cards that I would organize and reorganize again and again, trying to get all of my facts in just the perfect order.

It started with an “outline” and ended with the dreaded Bibliography.  Oh, how it became my arch nemesis.  “Did I use this quote?” … “I think I took that section out.” … “Wasn’t that passage in more than one book?”  I questioned myself constantly.  The format had to be consistent and all the indentions had to line up.

And all of this in the age of the typewriter.  Yes, I had a typewriter.  No, it wasn’t an IBM Selectric.  It was an old typewriter with a bell.  I’ve always been a pretty good typist so I would whiz right through page after page with very few mistakes.  Of course, the typos that I did make were always found on the lower third of the page which required my OCD self to start the entire page over.  None of that Correct-O-Type for me.  I found that stuff impossible to use.  And forget about liquid paper.  I don’t know how people were able to realign the pages enough to fix their mistakes.

The night before that final paper was due, I stayed up half the night making adjustments, adding page numbers and sorting through my notes.  I had purchased a perfect report cover and used a rather fancy photograph of King Louis XIV on the cover page.  And then I overslept.   So, after working on it for months, my research paper was submitted late … slipped under the door of my teacher’s office between classes.  That’s probably why I got an A-minus.

EPILOGUE:  I’ve forgotten everything that I ever learned about King Louis XIV … so don’t ask.

Copyright © 2012 DiatribesAndOvations.com
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17 Comments
  1. Rene permalink

    I miss card catalogs.

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  2. I think kids these days should have to prepare at least ONE research paper the old fashioned way just so they can see how spoiled they really are.

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  3. I got all verklempt just reading about that!

    Oy!

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  4. In this age of Wikipedia, we have lost some of the real joy of accidental discovery that you don’t really get from electronic research. It’s like buying the cookbook vs. looking up a recipe. You are more likely to stumble upon something wonderful if you actually go through the book, something you may not have thought of otherwise.

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  5. Rick W permalink

    I felt my anxiety level increase as I read this.

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  6. Ha! Oh, I remember those papers. Using white out, ripping the paper out of the typewriter. How on earth did we do it?

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  7. Wow. I bet you were an honor roll student! The only thing I learned from writing a term paper was how to procrastinate to the last minute. I once wrote a term paper the night before on Leonardo Di Vinci and I got a B. I don’t think I deserved it though.

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  8. Oh man!! Overslept! :( That stinks.. And bibliographies – – I loathed them when I was in college because that’s where I HAD to write them for my research papers.

    Great post!

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  9. As a retired English teacher, I have taught the research paper to 11th graders. If you think writing it was laborious, try grading them! I graded each step – note cards, bibliography cards, outline, rough draft, and then final copy with everything included in a manila envelope or one of those fold-out tied folders. I went to grad school before computers and spent lots of time in the library (card catalog, microfiche, copier). It builds character. LOL

    Teaching the research paper changed as technology did. Remember how hard it was to allow the right amount of space on manual or electric typewriters for footnotes? I was so glad to use parenthetical citations later on.

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  10. Louis XIV was king of France, all Louis with numbers were. That’s all you need to remember.

    If you just have a number it is math, and you don’t need that either.

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  11. great, now I will have nightmare flashbacks to these days of old… I sooo remember doing these like this. LOL

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