I remember receiving my first assignment at university as a doe-eyed fresher and thinking, great, I can bash out this essay in the afternoon and have tonight to ‘settle down with a cup of tea’. Naturally, this was student speak for a shot of Sambuca. However, when I and the other students who were sat blearily in the lecture room were informed that we would have to refer to books and go to something called ‘the library’, I found myself feeling out of my depth.
Although I had previous experience of writing essays during college, it was never a task that required much textual research. Just the frequent Wikipedia search or occasional reference to the online dictionary. So it was with much trepidation that I made my way to the library, card in hand. With five floors to explore, it was hard to know where to start. Yet as I meandered through the tunnels of walls stacked sky high with books, I began to realise the possibilities of print.
Although the internet is an incredibly powerful tool that provides us with information at our fingertips, there’s something satisfying about being able to pick out this information tangibly, to literally ‘grasp’ its meaning. Unless you know precisely what you’re looking for online, it can sometimes be hard to find the relevant information, often because there’s so much to sift through. Reading a book allows me to bookmark pages easily without having to scroll down an infinite list in my browser. And if you’re lucky enough (and trusting enough), previous students’ comments inked on pages can help you understand a theory or spur you on to realise your own. Just don’t plagiarise them like Harry Potter in the Half-Blood Prince.
There is also the general consensus that professors are opposed to web sources, as they do not deem them scholarly. However, even now that journals exist online and have been scholarly approved, there’s just something that feels reliable about print.
Although it slightly broke my back to walk home, rucksack laden with books, those books had been relied on throughout thousands of students’ essays, all of whom had subsequently walked up to that podium and received their degree classifications.
Now, my dissertation has also been printed and book bound, marked with pen by the lecturer, ready for family members in years to come to read. Finding a file of your accomplishments in your computer’s documents just doesn’t have quite the same spark.