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Editorial: Internet Sources

March 5, 1997

Editorial

Internet Sources

World Wide Web useful research tool; students must beware bad information

The issue:

Internet use as a paper source.

Our view:

Using the Internet is fine, but students should be

careful what sources they use.

Convenience, speed and the wide range of knowledge available all make the Internet sound like a great place to help students out on homework.

The Internet has potential to be a great help for students. One of the Internet providers' main selling points is helping children learn. Universities often have homepages which can be an immense help in preparing papers.

However, not all of the data available on the information superhighway is so trustworthy. Anyone with the equipment and knowledge can post whatever they want.

Partisan groups, especially in the political realm, can set up homepages with facts leaning toward their causes. That's their right, but students should be mindful of whom they are quoting. One lesson from journalism applies well here: consider the source.

It is another situation of 'caveat emptor,' buyer beware. Or more accurately, user beware.

Besides, just clicking on the Web to get information for papers makes documentation more difficult. The folks at MLA must have had a nightmare figuring out how to cite homepages. Professors, in turn, may not be able to easily trust papers taken largely from the Internet.

If nothing else, Internet use in education simply signals America's desire to speed everything up. However, knowledge cannot always be gathered in the same manner as a drive-through window.

Overusing the Internet for sources also creates a greater danger of cheating. Someone out there has already created a homepage devoted to downloadable term papers for a price. Already some similar services are available to get sample essays for graduate school applications.

The World Wide Web makes a wonderful tool, but also a terrible crutch at times.

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