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The Internet and researching

On the Pew Research site, you can find a summary of the findings of how teen-age students do research today. Here is the summary of the sources they are likely to consult:

Google or other online search engine (94%)Wikipedia or other online encyclopedia (75%)YouTube or other social media sites (52%)Their peers (42%)Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, or other study guides (41%)News sites of major news organizations (25%)Print or electronic textbooks (18%)Online databases such as EBSCO, JSTOR, or Grolier (17%)A research librarian at their school or public library (16%)Printed books other than textbooks (12%)Student-oriented search engines such as Sweet Search (10%)

The heading under which these data are given reads: The internet has changed the very meaning of research. I would like myself to know how many of the teens consulted more than one of these.

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Printed books other than textbooks: 12%. I found this to be a problem with young people I hired as entry-level policy analysts. They could only do online research. Maybe this will change someday, but there are a still a lot of documents, government records, reports, etc, that are not online. I had to take new staff to the City Clerk's office to show them to use a microfiche machine to look at property records.

Fr. K. -- A crude guess from the numbers above indicates an average of about 3 types of source per teen. (Total %s above = 298%, omitting search engine tools like Google which point elsewhere for substance.) To me, this is of less relevance than the fact that anyone who can use a browser faces a practical infinity of immediately available "information" (although not all -- see Irene above 12:33pm) of generally unknown quality. The vast majority of teachers in the Pew survey identified judging quality as a top priority that should be addressed. After decades of experience, I feel comfortable sorting and judging material in certain areas. I have no idea how to do that in your field or many others. I would hope these teachers have some recipes to teach teens about the complexities of finding and verifying reliable information today. Sample problem: At 1pm today, a Google search on [ "Joseph A. Komonchak" research internet pew ] for the past month gives me 3 pointers to today's dotCommonweal. For the past year, 11,000,000. Do I pick the first one or keep working to filter through the whole pile?

Very interesting findings. No doubt I'm asking for the moon, but it would be fascinating to know how much these uses of online and other sources vary between fields of research. I imagine that if you're looking at demographic changes in a particular region, online sources, such as census reports, might make up the bulk of your research. But if you've been assigned a paper on "Why Isabel Archer Went Back" (to steal a title from the newest NYRB), it's going to be difficult to write it without grappling first with Portrait of a Lady, and though you can read Henry James online, it's easier to deal with the printed book. Even if you stick only to online sources, you could probably work up a reasonably decent paper on, say, aspects of the Civil War or the New Deal, because there's so much stuff there; but if you're concerned with the growth of the Italian textile industry in the late middle ages and earlier renaissance, you might have a tougher time. My experience (and I've been retired from teaching undergrads for some years) is that too many students think that if a source is worthwhile, it's online; and if it isn't online, it isn't important, and can safely be ignored. PS I hope that among the 11 million hits for Joseph A. Komonchak, some at least relate to his recently having been awarded the Marianist Prize from the University of Dayton (and joining, thereby, some other Commonwealers).

A friend commented the other day: "When I was a child, I tried to read the encyclopedia and it was very frustrating. Articles fell in two categories: either they were straightforward and I knew everything contained in them, or they were too sophisticated and I was completely lost after two sentences. Now, I can find information on the internet about every conceivable subject, written at precisely the right level for my understanding. For the intellectually curious, the internet is a revolutionary tool to acquire knowledge."But do those teenagers appreciate the amazing possibilities lying at their fingertips?

Interesting. I just got done doing a survey of students in my freshman comp class after the librarians did database research training. Despite the fact that students overwhelmingly felt that the training was clear and useful, only 70 percent or so said that they would now be MORE likely to use the databases. On another note, my son's school handed out iPads to all students owing the a fairly large number of kids who do not have computer access at home. Students are doing some interesting things in class with it; they made a movie illustrating velocity for their physics class and are doing jazz arrangements using some special app in music class. But I'd say 60 to 70 percent of my kid's use is personal/entertainment. I also see that he has quite an extensive file of humorous photos taken during what are supposed to be in-class research times. I did send an e-mail to his teachers narking him out on this.And his grades? Meh. Pretty much the same.

When I was in college, the only research source I had for medieval history was my small school library's few books and fewer periodicals ... I felt like Indiana Jones searching for buried relics ;) Now I can read in incredible detail a huge amount of same history because of the internet. It's wonderful! Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre wrote a post once defending students doing research with Wikipedia .... http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/in-defence-of-wikipedia.html

Goodacre has a much higher regard for Wikipedia than do a great many people. If I use it I always try to find a supporting "real" source.

Nicholas Clifford wrote,

I hope that among the 11 million hits for Joseph A. Komonchak, some at least relate to his recently having been awarded the Marianist Prize from the University of Dayton (and joining, thereby, some other Commonwealers).

I just did some checking and found this on another website:

I think that this may be a great link for Catholica. University of Dayton's 2012 Marianist award winner - Rev. Joseph Komonchak - gives his presentation entitled, "Thinking the Church" - a wonderful and timely lecture

Turns out that a video of the talk is posted on Joe Komonchaks website:http://jakomonchak.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/marianist-lecture-thinking-t...

Hi Jim - usually Wikipedia articles do have real sources footnoted. I regard Wikipedia as a starting place with leads to other sources.

When I started grad school there was a one-hour required course called "Proseminar" which was about books generally (e.g., what's a codex?), how library books are classified (so you can find what you're interested in by browsing the shelves), and also it told us something about the most reliable journals in our field (philosophy in our case), plus it covered footnoting and a lot of the other stuff you need to be a real scholar. The idea was to make us aware of the wealth of stuff available world-wide and, no doubt, to make us realize just how terribly ignorant we all really were. The problem always is to know who is truly an authority. Wikipedia has a problem because anyone can contribute, but, note, it is also corrected by many, many knowledgeable people. I've read that a recent study was done of its reliability, and, surprise, it was found that it generally compared favorably with the Encyc. Britannica, which isn't all that surprising because the EB has some really old articles in it that probably need correction too. But I've also seen some articles that are real bummers. I'd say that the philosophical articles I've read have been quite reliable, though not entirely so. I always look at the footnoting in the articles -- if they refer to well-known authorities then I assume that the writers knew what they were talking about. And, after all is said and done, we don't really have any better guarantee of reliability when we just pick a book off a shelf because the author can write a decen sentence. He might be a mass of prejudices. So the fact remains whether you get the data off the net or from a library book which you've never heard of before you saw it on the shelf, you have to bring some knowledge of who is authoritative and who isn't. Otherwise, you can spread misinformation unknowingly. I'm thinking hereof Bertrand Russell's history of philosophy (I forget its name. It's a really, really bad book. He was no historian of philosphy. But you'd not know that given his great reputation in other fields. The only solution to the "which writers do I trust?" question is prior education, or, a highly specialized library with highly specialized librarians. It's their job to know, but even then, they aren't always reliable either. I know -- I was one.What the solution for high school kids is, I haven't the slighest idea. They are at everyone's mercy.

High school kids do research?

Thanks for this post and thread. A couple of thoughts:1 - The fact that, according to this study, the average teenager uses 3 of the sources listed above means that the average teenager in or going to college uses more than 3. That jibes with my current experience of teenagers---many of whom regularly use sources from 6-10 of the categories listed in the survey.2 - NYU professor Clay Shirky is an insightful guide on the technological revolution we're living through and how it's changing our society and forcing us to rethink common assumptions. Here's a link to one of his essays in which, among other things, he draws an analogy to the revolutionary impact of the printing press on European society. http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthink...

All research materials have to be evaluated, whether they are on the Internet or a library shelf. Learning to research is essentially learning how to evaluate. What is my question? Does this address it? Etc.To take Ann's example, Russell's History of Western Philosophy is an excellent source for Information on Russell and the place of his thinking in society. Mysore Hiriyanna presents a completely different kind of information, Indian rather than Western with Indian rather than Western views of what philosophy is. A student has to know how to choose what answers the question being researched. That becomes more problematic on the Internet, where so much is available, compared to libraries which rarely carry both authors ( except in India?)Just as fiction develops some of these evaluating skills in readers, personal/entertainment use of computers might develop such skills in players, testers, etc. perhaps being bombarded with bombs from virtual attackers helps some understand how to react when bombarded by information. What strategy will get me to the info I need?

Crystal post points out what I think is the great irony of the Internet revolution. Never has so much of our cultural heritage been available to students (e.g., I found a facsimile of the Beowulf MS in one click to show my mass comm students when we studied print media). And with all the info available most kids are essentially using it to send Facebook "postcards" to each other a la "imma c u later this morning i had a egg for bkrfast!!LOL!!"On the other hand, there are some little gems. I'm watching the "Lizzie Bennet Diaries" on YouTube, a modern retelling of "Pride and Prejudice" by some Millennial hipsters. And a friend with an artistic bent puts her daily photos on Twitter, which are really lovely and contemplative.

I agree entirely that something like a revolution is taking place before our eyes. In theology, the amount and variety of data readily available on the Internet is beyond what any of us might have dreamt of twenty years ago. For example, excellent word- and phrase-searches are now possible into the opera omnia of Augustine or Aquinas that once would have taken months to carry out. It remains, of course, that such searches are only as valuable as the questions that prompt them, and that it takes an exercise of intelligence to interpret the data they provide and of reason to assesses them.On the other hand, automatic speller that comes with our blog-software underlined in red the word "dreamt" above. Then there are the politically correct softwares: some years ago a writer who had typed "Notre Dame" was rebuked for using a word that is regarded as disparaging of women!

Ann, I find wikipedia articles on theoretical computer science (a non-controversial topic free of sensitive questions) typically excellent. I use them in lecture preparation, and at the introductory level they are often as good as the best textbook. The examples are well thought out and illuminating. Sometimes I read wikipedia articles that are obviously written by students. Their confusion shows, for example, in mixing two incompatible proofs in an ill-fated attempt to merge parts with different authors. Those are easy to identify by their awkward phrasing. Sometimes I also encounter wikipedia articles written by a researcher who presents his little corner of the subject as though it was the central element of the field. The bias is obvious if you know anything about the subject, and if you do not, suspicions can be raised by looking at the lack of diversity and of well-established textbooks in the list of references. When such a page stays uncorrected for some time, it also suggests to me that the subject may be of only marginal importance.Occasionally I correct wikipedia pages myself. When they are related to material I am preparing for a lecture or a seminar, I might as well correct the corresponding pages. I also sometimes assign wikipedia pages as a writing assignment for my students. For extra credit, they can ask me for a suggestion of a topic that needs a page, or whose wikipedia page could use improvements, and their task is to read the best article or textbook section and use it to update wikipedia under my supervision. It's a satisfying, low-commitment way to "give back" to wikipedia, and the students love the novelty of it, the feeling of being part of a large and diffuse community dedicated to sharing knowledge. One of the most interesting cases I have seen has been the wikipedia page on Chernoff bounds. The topic is part of probability, but is used by scientists in many other fields. Each field has its own style and its own taste to judge what makes a page "well-written" and a particular detail "worthwhile". For example, many mathematicians like to state their result and proof at the broadest possible level of generality, pushing their proof techniques to the limit, even if it becomes cumbersome; but many computer scientists like me like to state their result and proof at the simplest level that still captures the main idea, so to minimize notations and maximize readability, even though it is at the cost of generality. As a result, there's been some push and pull on that page. In fact, last I looked, there were several pages on the topic, with lots of redundancy between them. I am not sure what the solution is for that problem.

The Internet is wonderful for writing homilies. I wish our church's worship space was more audio-visual up-to-date, so I could show clips from films or television shows or music videos.

Google had some ads about google, 2-minute long clips of people telling personal stories about how search engines have had an impact for them. I admit that I was interested in hearing those stories, for example the archeologist who explores Saudi Arabia via google earth, or the philosophy student who discovers a long-lost letter by Descartes via (I think) image search. http://www.google.com/insidesearch/stories/

Jim, in a homily?! In the middle of Mass? I hope I die before I see that.

"... usually Wikipedia articles do have real sources footnoted. I regard Wikipedia as a starting place with leads to other sources."Not unilke the Catechism. The biggest problem is not the sources, but that too many people today, as they were in my generation, are not formed, prepared, or trained to think critically. My teachers refused to accept Encyclopedia research in the 70's. But they can be interesting reads.

Wikipedia (and other wikis and encyclopedic sites) are fun to browse, but students are sometimes astounded to learn that they browse just as easily with a database (Academic OneFile is a favorite).I do think encyclopedic sites can be useful as backgrounders. Recently a student used Wikipedia to learn more about the formation of the state of Israel. This helped her identify some important names and dates that she could then take to a "real" database and better understand the info and narrow her searches.

This might be heresy, but sometimes I think that what students need more of are not articles but fiction and movies. I can read about the causes and effects of, say, WW II, but without some well-formed, highly particular images of what went on I'm not nearly as likely to remember what I have read. Even comic books can supply images of knights in armor and battle scenes that specify things for them. It's why seeing a Shakespeare play is much more informative about human nature than just reading it, and lines well-spoken are more impressive than those just read. Yes, pictures and photographs are useful, but they rarely capture the dynamism of real life. This is also why we love movies -- and, no doubt why we've named them "movies".

Jean: even St. Peter's uses Jumbotrons! Get with it, gal. Maybe parishes can install voting machines in the pews for use within 60 seconds after the end of the homily. Instand feedback and all -- and it can be perfectly anonymous and no need for the messy face-to-face with Father or Deacon.

Research is a teachable process of developing a well-formed question (#1), identifying possible ways to answer it, finding resources which may be relevant, evaluating their quality and interpreting them for the task at hand, and composing a communicable answer to the question, in my view. Few teens will become formal researchers, but, if absorbed, this way of thinking can be powerful in some matters large and small. It deserves focus and up-to-date understanding for its own sake, independent of the multitude of other functions enabled by a computer connected to the Internet such as those mentioned above. Comments above reflect substantial experience with the process, tools, and techniques of research learned in earlier years. The teens of interest don't know anything about that earlier environment and therefore lack grounds for appreciating much of the wisdom and insight it produced. Translating enduring wisdom about searching, judging, and selecting for today's learners at all stages of development is a critical requirement for all involved. My first exposure to a major university library left me awed and challenged by the magnitude of the resources available to me within arm's reach. A combination of teachers, librarians, peers, and learning experiences eventually made it mine for my particular purposes. A student today has much easier access, potentially unguided, to a vastly greater quantity of words, numbers, and images. (I withdraw my earlier use of the term "information" since much of what one can access doesn't fit the definition very well.) Google and Wikipedia calculate probabilistic guesses of what you appear to intend but can't come close yet to providing guidance on an ill-formed question, a mis-directed search, an accidental tangent, or aimless wandering. Claire (12:48pm) may be a leading indicator of the approach required, actively bringing together students, teaching, and research with her deeper appreciation than many have of the nature of the environmental revolution in progress. Are there analogous interactive teaching efforts developing in theology, philosophy, Catechism, history,, recognizing that the Internet as a tool for research is far more than extended bookshelves?

Ann, I agree there is a real need for stories. Our little college received a grant to host a French film festival on campus, and I extended the exposure to movies by giving students a choice of one of six international short films to analyze. In order to explain how the films worked or what they meant, students had to do some leg work to understand things from the Palestinian-Israeli tensions to surrealism to the increased rate of suicide among the elderly in industrialized nations to the Chernobyl disaster to German guest workers.I once heard someone explain that the reason Anne Frank's diary resonates so much is because the human mind cannot really wrap its head around 6 million murders; it seems too abstract. People understand the tragedy better when they consider the particular--one little girl whose observations and perspectives were utterly and senselessly lost.

Ann and Jean - I think fiction (books and movies) is a great way to learn about history. It makes me care enough about the time and the people in the stories to go and look stuff up. If it had not been for all the Musketeer novels of Dumas, how would I have learned all about Cardinal Richelieu and the battle of la Rochelle? :)

Crystal --I agree about "historical movies". They're especially important because they allow kids to see that the past isn't completely different, might have something to teach them, and it gives them a sort of continuity with others in time and space. But just living in the past won't do. It also seems to me that these new graphic comics have a lot to offer as image makers. I recently read about a series called "Classical Comics" (of novels) which some teachers find useful. it's not that images alone can provide an education. It's that education is impossible without a big personal library of images stored in our memories. Our thinking is so dependent on images that thinking even highly abstract thoughts like those of math and econ and metaphysics require using images, images which might not even look like the concepts we're thinking. For instance, try thinkng about infinity without some sort of image (probably visual) coming to mind. Weird.Not to mention that our images of other times and places are a large part of our shared culture.

While I"m spouting off about the conditions for being educated, I think that my own generation (very Old, b. 1930) had a great advantage in having Life Magazine with its truly marvelous photographs. They were highly educational and gave us ordinary non-travellers information about how other people actually live. I can still remember some of them -- the people in the dust bowl, people in the depression selling apples on the streets, Roosevelt at Malta, a lynching, Churchill without his cigar, horrible war photos, Dresden after the bombing, the Bomb set off in Nevada, Queen Elizabeth's coronation, various politicians making their political pitches, movie stars and freaks, local celebrations, . . . Many of those pictures are still available in book form and could be valuable for high school history courses.. Life hired the very best photographers of the day who knew not only the techniques of photography but how to choose a subject to tell a story. Life used to be a weekly magazine, but sadly, no more. TV just can compare with it -- the TV cameras just seem to gloss over things and it doesn't have the intelligent captioning that Life always provided.

Ann,I think you're right about images and learning. I think that's why I have trouble learning some things - I can't make good mental images for them. When I read novels, though, it's like there's a little movie running in my head the whole time, all images, which makes the novels very memorable.

Crystal --Some psychologists say that some people learn best by hearing and others by seeing. I wouldn't doubt that, but I suspect that individuals' learning "styles" differ for many more reasons than that.I find it very difficult to learn something If the question(s) being asked and answered aren't of interest to me. Maybe that's your problem with learning some things too. Questions are, I think, terribly important in the whole learning process, but I don't know that the psychologists have given a lot of attention to the subject. They haven't asked enough questions about questions? Wonder why. Can you teach kids to ask good questions for themselves? Or are we just born more or less curious? Hmm. Some subjects are quite threatening to people, particularly philosophy because it often challenges people's most basic and cherished beliefs. That, not lack of ability, can make a subject hard to learn. Many of the very best college students do less well in philosophy than their other subjects. I daresay theology and history and psychology also can shake up some kids, and so they find them difficult to accept.

Aristotle noted this link between images and knowing when he said, "the soul never thinks without an image" (De anima, III, 7), which Thomas Aquinas elaborated on in Summa theologica, I, q. 84, 7, when he wrote: "Anyone can experience within himself that if he tries to understand something, he forms images for himself which serve as examples in which he can, as it were, look at what he is trying to understand. This is why, when we want to help someone else understand something, we propose examples to him so that he can form images for himself in order to understand." Bernard Lonergan used Aristotle's statement as the epigram for his book Insight.

Humans are largely visual learners, which I suppose is why the Internet is so endlessly fascinating (whether any quality learning is going on); people have a lot of stuff to see and some of it moves!Some of us who are aural and kinesthetic learners (I have to touch something before I believe it, and when a neighbor told me about St. Doubting Thomas when I was six, it opened up great vistas of possibilities for faith that still resonate). As a knitter, I figured out a lot of things for myself just by playing around, but the Internet tutorials that not only show video but TALK you through things are invaluable. This is something a book cannot do, even though I suspect that we aural learners often have a very clear "voice" in our heads when we read a book. (I'm currently reading P.D. James' "Death Comes to Pemberley," and it's testimony to her skill as a writer that the voice is ALMOST the same as the one I hear when I read Austen.)I also love books on tape (and I say frequent prayers for Nicholas Clifford whose wonderful voice animated a number of Henry James novels on LibriVox and proves that American English is quite lovely).

Jean, I listen to a lot of audio novels - it *is* different than reading text.Fr. Komonchak - i wonder if this mental image thing is part of what makes the Spiritual Exercises so intimate and moving to retreatants?

This is why, when we want to help someone else understand something, we propose examples to him so that he can form images for himself in order to understand.

This suggests a problem with the prefabricated broad-stroke historical images displayed in movies. The individual creative imagination is bypassed, left unexercised. The student leaves the movie experience believing the transmitted image in its fullness. Much better, perhaps, is just enough of a good example to start the creative and analytical minds working together to create their own understanding, their own images.

David, I have heard this opinion before ... and expressed it myself on occasion. But I wonder if it's really fair to say that Our Young People are not exercising their creative imaginations.Many of my students do read, and I'm always interested that when a movie version of the book comes out (this year it was "The Hunger Games"), students are quite willing to go for as long as I'll let them comparing the book and movie. What emerges is a discussion on casting, setting, special effects, and the various movie elements that did or did not do justice to the original work--or, in some cases, worked to elucidate some elements of the book.I also have a suspicion that the endless reboots of movies, which I find tedious, means something entirely different to them. Look how many permutations of Arthurian legend there are. Something about Batman and Spider-Man (orphans with special powers, just like Arthur) is important to them and needs constant re-telling and re-visioning. Moreover, these movies, for good or ill, tell them about the nature of responsibility and morality--and these matters are often fairly ambiguous and challenging. I do hear a fair amount of discussion about how the movie *could* have ended with different choices.I don't mean to suggest that there isn't a lot of crap out there that the kiddies consume, but I do wonder if there are things going on in their heads that we aging book lovers might be overlooking.But I stray from the topic.

" -- The human mind cannot really wrap its head around 6 million murders; it seems too abstract --"Unless, of course, one visits the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. No book nor movie can match the presentation of such horror as is exhibited in the THOUSANDS of pictures of those who died in that Holocaust. Just the pictures and mournful music. They were more than enough for me and infinitely more revealing than any movie or novel.

Now that people can make little movies with smart phones, I'm hoping that a new genre might spring up -- short story-movies. They could last 15-30 minutes and tell stories that the long movies can't. (Some stories just aren't long, but as tiny motion pictures they they might be enjoyable and even powerful, similarly to the way great photographs can be very moving. And, unlike photographs, they can be of unreal events. Just look at some of the stuff on YouTube. Some of those people are really talented. I bet it expands into another genre.

I think a problem with "movies", Ann, is that they're linear and entire. They demand and consume a fixed and usually lengthy part of our lives. As I've grown older, I've come to understand television and film as tyrants of time, requiring far too much of me. No friend, no book demands that I devote ten or twenty minutes or two hours of my life to doing nothing but paying attention to it. We'd see such a book as an evil object and we'd soon see such a friend as an enemy. On top of this, you won't know whether the fifteen or thirty minutes of your "short story-movie" is worth your while until you've watched it through. Chances are, probabilities being probabilities, that you'll regret the chunk of your life you've lost in the enterprise.Visual, yes; movies, no.

David S. --I just don't finish a book that disappoints. The short story is one of the very greatest genres, and I think there's plenty room for something analogous in movies. Off course, you might waste your time watching, but the same thing is true of reading material, and you can always just turn if off or erase it.

Have a rack at church entrance for everybody to pick up a small transmitter that is instantly activated at end of the homily. Preprogrammed question(s) appear, and time is allotted after the sermon for pewsitters to give feedback to the cleric. Feedback is then flashed across a screen for everybody including homilist to see. Possible question: "Did you benefit from this sermon, or did it suck?"

Hard to imagine doing research now as it was done in the bad old days. All the time spent searching microfilm? All the money spent on inter-library loans? Et cetera.Funny to go to the basement stacks of a university library where the old theses and dissertations are turning to dust. How thin they were a century ago. How crude they still were half a century ago. Today? Easy. The article on Tips from a Professional Cheater in the NYT supplement on Education Life yesterday was funny::http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/term-paper-tips-from-... that:"DAVE TOMAR spent the aughts writing nearly 4,000 papers for undergraduates and graduate students. In his most lucrative year, 2010, he made just over $50,000 $100 to $120 a paper but that was being tethered to the computer every single day for the college-paper mill he worked for. No subject was too big, not even a 170-page dissertation on international financial reporting standards. That was a miserable four days, says Mr. Tomar, 32, who was a communications major at Rutgers."

Gerelyn --I remember when Xerox became the scholar's best friend. Before Xerox we had to copy our notes by hand. I got one of the first MacIntosh computers which was very primitive by today's standards, but it had one glorious feature -- it changed footnote numbers automatically! I used to drive myself crazy when doing my dissertation trying to keep the numbers straight. And, of course, the erase and copy and paste features of computers is a huge blessing. Kids really don't know how lucky they are :-)

B.X. - before Xerox - I remember as a little kid spending hours helping to roneotype my dad's PhD thesis on the kitchen table every day before or after dinner. Seven copies of each page, one for each committee member. The simple work, requiring attention but with no difficulty; putting each new sheet in place, careful to position it straight, or turning the crank, or pulling it out and checking readability; the enjoyment of being useful; the good smell of ink and the blue stains on my fingers. I liked it!

My father was a court stenographer for thirty-five years, taking things down by shorthand. He never learned the little dictation machine, much less the word-processing that is now possible. His work had only begun when he got home from the courthouse; now he had to type out the official record of the day's proceedings. He used carbon-paper for extra copies. We kids often did proof-reading for him. When I was typing out my dissertation, I dreaded having to make a major change because it would mean retyping not only that page but all the others that followed before the end of the chapter.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.