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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

SparkNotes — a glorified version of cheating

Shirina Cao
Students who succumb to the allure of Sparknotes will fail to analyze classic literature on their own.

Many students have fallen victim to the classic blunder of happily sauntering into English class, only to find out that there was reading homework from last class that you never did. From here, there is only one logical approach, right? To consult SparkNotes, the tried and true savior of all English students. 

Although this approach may work in the short term, relying on e-notes websites such as SparkNotes is not beneficial for students who are looking to expand their actual skills. 

On paper, SparkNotes perhaps seems like the perfect study partner. It has everything students could ever want, from summaries of entire novels to detailed analysis of each chapter. It can serve as an extremely useful tool to supplement a student’s learning. The trouble is that many students are instead solely relying on SparkNotes for summaries and analyses, essentially subbing others’ thoughts and ideas for their own . 

The objective of reading in English class is to analyze novels by paying close attention to what the author writes and to search for overarching themes and other critical elements. Literary analysis is one of the best ways to train an individual’s critical thinking skills, which is why we as students are assigned countless essays each year on the literature that we read. Unfortunately, SparkNotes-type sites take away the thinking part from reading, which makes taking otherwise challenging English classes pointless and gives students a false sense of overconfidence. Needless to say, an overreliance on SparkNotes is concerning and will probably cost these students in the long run since they won’t have the same level of skills as students who don’t take the shortcut. 

Some English teachers even refer to using SparkNotes as cheating — and rightfully so. Tools like SparkNotes make the English classroom extremely unfair to students who do not use it, as students who do can simply read and regurgitate a professionally written and flushed out analysis of any book without even opening it at all in the first place. 

In English class, we are expected to learn how to read, analyze and write, not how to copy and paste. However, SparkNotes facilitates this “copy-and-paste” learning mindset, as students don’t have to even lift a finger to do well on essays and reading checks. Thus there is little actual difference between using SparkNotes and cheating, as they both involve a student not having to do anything and still potentially receiving good grades. 

If students still value academic integrity and their English education, staying away from SparkNotes is the way to go.

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