OPINION: Sparknotes is a valuable resource

Phil Vogel

Sparknotes.com is a website started by Harvard Students to help fellow students study by providing chapter by chapter summaries of assigned reading books.

Since the website’s sale to Barnes and Nobles in 2001, Sparknotes has expanded to include books in almost every category, centered toward almost every demographic. In fact, the Sparknotes database now offers 19 subjects, hundreds of authors and thousands of titles.

“I feel like Sparknotes is a good way to summarize,” said Mackenzie Gross, a 19-year-old business major. “It totally provides detailed info.”

While there is a value to reading all the assigned content directly from a textbook, the reality is that students are tested on their comprehension of the material, and not the time they invested in it.

If a student can accurately complete his assignment on time, and meets the requirements with the help of this online tool, it can be of great benefit to him or her, especially if the aforementioned student is balancing multiple classes or jobs.

“It’s pretty cool. It gives you the jist of what you are learning, so you are all set and prepared,” said Anna Partridge, an18-year-old student and avid Sparknotes connoisseur.

In most scenarios students will use Sparknotes as a complement to the book  they are reading. Sparknotes is by no means a perfect solution to avoid arduous hours of navigating textbooks. Students are not absolved from working hard in their classes when using Sparknotes. However if used responsibly it can relieve a lot of stress, and be a fast, and fun way to study.

Some students use the tool to find a summary of required information, without cracking open a book.

Sparknotes is a useful way to get information I need. I wish that there were more books listen on their website,” said 18-year-old Cameron Jacob, who has not yet decided on a major. “In high school I saved a lot of money, by not buying a book and just reading the summaries on Sparknotes.”

David Trujillo, a 40-year-old fine arts major, sees both the pros and cons of Spartnotes.

“There already are summaries in every chapter of the textbook provided to you. I don’t see the problem in using an outside resource for the same information,” Trujillo said. “It’s also a way to save money on buying expensive books.”

However, Trujillo does acknowledge some flaws in using Sparknotes as a primary resource,

“You are not always getting all the info if you don’t actually read the book,” he said. “That’s why I will read the book and take copious notes. I make my own summaries.”

Daniel Archer, an 18-year-old psychology major, used to use Sparknotes, but has moved onto newer tools. 

“I don’t really use Sparknotes anymore,” Archer said. “Now I use ThugnotesThugnotes is a dude on YouTube talking to you about the book and summarizing everything you need to know. It’s really cool you should try it!”

Sparknotes in general is as comprehensive a study guide as any instructor or professor could, or will, provide and should be seen as a helpful resource rather then a determent promoting laziness and a lesser classroom experience.   

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