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Student's nightmare

by Mbacham Abegesha, staff writer


Imagine yourself in 1980 and the instructor gives you a seven-page research paper for your final assignment. The Internet is not invented yet and Apple Computer has yet to open a store.

The first thing you have to do is to find a topic of interest. You have no choice but to go to the school library, which has no online catalogue, just rows and rows of books. The only way to find a topic is a card catalogue

How we used to write papers.
and the dreaded Dewey Decimal System. After three hours of research, you finally find your topic. The problem is you have seven good books on your topic and each contains something that the others might leave out. You know your instructor is very detailed in her paper grading, so you decide to use all seven Since you canít cut and paste your information from the World Wide Web, your option for this is the note card. Those mini 4x6 cards will have to hold as much information as possible. Donít forget you have to make it neat, because the instructor wants to see your research. The instructor also wants your notes formatted in a certain order.


Books one through six are researched. What about book seven? Itís entirely on your topic. This is good for information but a problem for taking notes. What do you annotate and what do you leave out? Donít forget that note cards can only hold so much.

Finally all the research is done, and itís time to make an outline. If only you had software that contained various outlines to choose from. Itís 10:30 p.m. and the library is closing. Your body wants to sleep, so you quit and decide to start tomorrow. The paper is due in one day.

You go to your other classes, wasting about six hours of writing time. After classes are done you're back in the library, sweating, hoping for an "A" paper. Since your note cards are organized, your outline is done in about 45 minutes. You established your introduction, body, and conclusion. Unfortunately you forgot about subtopics for the main body. Time to do it all over.

The outline is finally done. Itís now 4 p.m. and you need a rough draft.

Your rough draft is done quickly, and it looks very rough. You go over the rough draft to correct all the mistakes. Wait, your instructor told you to have someone else read it and sign the bottom as proof that they read it. The only person in the school library on a Friday night is the librarian, and she is nowhere in sight. Once you hunt her down and have her read it, she finds at least five more errors on every page (The librarian was an English teacher for seven years). You go over the mistakes and you correct them for the last time. It is now 9:30 p.m., giving you plenty of time for the final paper.

Soon the librarian says the library is closing. No problem, youíll just save the information on a disk and put it on your computer in your room. Wait, there is no disk or computer. Too bad.

You rush to your room and start writing as soon as you get in. The final copy takes you three hours because you started getting sleepy in the middle and you made mistakes. You wish you had a program that could check spelling and errors as you type, like today's Microsoft Word.

You reach over to turn off the light so you can go to bed, when you remember that the instructor wants to see at least one photo of your topic. It would be nice to have a scanner so you could scan a picture and print it out on your laser printer, but you donít have either yet. Luckily the dorm has a photocopy machine downstairs. You make your way downstairs to make copies and realize that you need 10 cents per copy. You go back up and find enough change in your couch to make three copies.

Finally the paper is done.

Too soon, you wake up to the sound of the alarm. You only slept for three hours, so you feel terrible. You look up to see a computer, a printer, and a scanner sitting on your desk.

Yes, it was only a dream.





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