Contribution by Sarah Davies
Their motto is this: “When your books and teachers don’t make sense, we do.” And, it’s true. SparkNotes do make a lot of sense out of a book or Shakespearean play when your teacher can’t seem to do so. Does this necessarily mean they should be used? I’ll admit that I have used SparkNotes, but afterwards I always felt a pang of guilt, as if my teacher would be disappointed to know I had looked up what happened in chapter 5 of Great Expectations because I hadn’t understood it on my own.
I have come to the conclusion that there is both a positive and a negative way to use SparkNotes. I use it as a sort of supplemental resource when it comes to understanding a text of which I’m unsure. I will never let SparkNotes serve as a replacement when it comes to reading a novel or a play because I want to experience the plot, the characters, and the symbolism within for myself—not through some Internet site.
Next time you’re sitting in English class, contemplating whether or not you understand why Romeo and Juliet just can’t be together, and whether or not you should get your answer from SparkNotes, consider these Do’s and Dont’s:
* DON’T make SparkNotes your number one resource when it comes to reading and understanding a text. Read the text on your own, and consult your teacher when you don’t understand something. (Your teacher WILL know if you’re reading SparkNotes and not the assigned text.)
* DO use SparkNotes as a supplemental resource. Read the text first, and then mosey on over to SparkNotes. Compare your interpretation of the text with theirs, and with your teacher’s. What are the differences? Allowing yourself to see a different perspective may open your mind.
* DON’T let SparkNotes become the text you use to write a paper. This is the easiest way to fall into the dangerous waters of plagiarism. It also sometimes will bring you to an interpretation your teacher did not teach in class.
* DO read your assigned English reading—you’ll be surprised how much you’ll appreciate it years after reading it.
In sum, appreciate SparkNotes for the awesome supplemental tool it is—and keep on reading the real stuff. There’s nothing better!