Students use SparkNotes as homework, class resource

By Abby Bien

“I just SparkNoted the Bible for one of my classes. I feel like that’s a sin.”
– A tweet I posted Sept. 24.
After reading 12 chapters from the Bible, I wasn’t completely confident I had understood all that I read.
I turned to SparkNotes, a website that offers summaries on hundreds of books, to help me comprehend the 2,000-year-old text.
The synopsis helped reaffirm the opinions and information I had gathered from the material.
Although I regularly use these resources, I often wonder: Do professors view students’ use of such websites as cheating?
“It is cheating yourself out of the opportunity to engage in something important and meaningful,” said Brent Hege, religion instructor for Butler’s department of philosophy and religion. “You’re just reading someone else’s work.”
However, using the websites is not technically cheating, he said.
A difference exists between using these websites in place of the assigned text and using them as a guide.
“If you’re participating in class and want to read (SparkNotes) to make sure you understand, that’s on you,” said Dr. Brandie Oliver,  assistant professor of counseling in the College of Education.
If you are going to refer to these resources, read the actual assigned pages first.
“At least in the College of Education, the expectation is that if you’re asked to read these three chapters, you’re going to read these three chapters,” Oliver said.
There is no harm in referencing another student’s notes to help you fully grasp the text. Just be sure to always form your own opinion beforehand.
“When I use SparkNotes.com, I read it in addition to the material to make sure I understood what happened,” freshman Gabi Randall said.
Don’t expect to read a 300-word summary of a 1,000-page novel and come away with a complete understanding of every detail.
“It’s not cheating. It’s just another resource,” freshman Noel Ball said.

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