Jessica Madrigal, a Sociology senior at UC Davis, has been exploring her interest in educational technology by interning at Surfmark this quarter. Surfmark is a research and collaboration tool that allows you to save your searches in a visual flow-chart. Other users can then comment on your search or use the search as a jumping-off point for their own research.
I see two potential benefits of using Surfmark in an academic environment: 1) teachers can view students’ search patterns and thus better understand and offer advise about research practices, and 2) the ability to revisit search patterns can assist with citation. As Jessica put it, “it’s like a reference – I can go back and scroll down and remember. There’s also a bibliography button that puts the website into the proper formatting; you just have to copy and paste the reference for your list.”
Beyond school, Jessica says she likes this tool because it allows her to “create and share collections on Twitter and Facebook. It’s satisfying when other people learn something or like something that I also like.”
The hope is that, as more people start using Surfmark, it will become increasingly collaborative and can act as a starting point for internet research. “If it’s just sitting there,” Jessica explains, “then it’s stagnant. We want it to be used by other people. For example, if you are researching architectural styles, you can go there and find other people’s research.”
The idea seems to be a combination of information management, collaboration, and visual organization. Importantly, it’s not a bibliographic list or a set of notes; it’s a visual flow chart of the research path. My questions, then, are: How does such a visual representation of research affect the end-project of an academic research paper? And how does beginning research by using someone else’s search paths affect citation and ownership issues?