Student Response, Amherst College


Questions for Students

What are your learning and research needs as defined by course assignments? Map out the range and variation, including both the content and the kinds of resources you encounter and need.

This past year, I wrote several larger research papers of lengths between 15 and 25 pages. In order to locate materials, I used software like Infotrac and Lexis-Nexis along with searching the Five-College library catalog and interlibrary loan. Additionally, the class for which I wrote the 25 page paper had its own website with listings/links to various topic-related and possibly helpful search engines, databases, libraries, archives, and electronic journals-- this was very good, and I know other departments have set up similar sites. While I found immense amounts of material on my own, the research librarians were particularly helpful in narrowing search subjects and informing me of other research options, two especially important things considering the number of options and possibilities available. Interlibrary loan and special collections/ archives were the most important to my work; the fact that those things had on-line listings accelerated the research process. On the other hand, I was not using internet technology to gather large samples in research or doing intense reading on-line with ASAP, Infotrac, or Lexis-Nexis articles.

My other writing assignments were papers in the range of five to ten pages, usually dealing with course reading. I prefer to have that reading on paper, and buying the course books and multiliths, though a substantial expense, is what most Amherst students do, so there is not much vying for reserve readings. While I have never been assigned reading on-line, friends of mine have, and the general opinion is that reading off a course web site sucks. My reading assignments are anywhere between 150 and 600 pages per class. The idea of doing all of that reading at a computer is not particularly alluring. Looking at paintings on the web was part of a writing assignment for a Fine Arts class I took, and that was okay, but most students agreed that due to the resolution on the web, the papers were not as good as they might have been, had we been able to look at slides (or, of course, the paintings themselves) On the other hand, being able to look at works on the web is better than not seeing them at all and easier than spending class time looking at slides when the professor would rather have the students drawing.

In class, it can be good if a professor uses a variety of media in a presentation. I have only been in a few large lecture classes, so I don't know exactly what to say about those. Clips from videos, slides, music, and web sites are often beneficial additions to the lecture, though they don't usually outweigh the effectiveness of an engaging lecturer in making class interesting.

Meredith Weill '01