SparkNotes: a helpful resource or a destructive tool?

A perfect reviewing resource


Trevor Cleveland, opinions writer

Almost every student has experienced that moment when they’re faced with a mountain of homework: a fully labeled and organized diagram of the inner workings of a deer’s digestive system, 99 problems in geometry, a 12-paragraph essay due on why bow-tie noodles are superior to angel hair noodles and 379 pages of Don Quixote to read. Students then ask themselves if SparkNotes may be their guardian angel out of the hellish world of work.

SparkNotes should not be viewed as a cheating tool students use to get out of doing work, but rather as a resource to help freshen up on a book they’ve already read to prepare for a test or quiz. However, like any resource, it can be abused, which is where SparkNotes gets its negative reputation.

Reading enthusiasts argue using SparkNotes takes away from the experience of a book, but I’m not encouraging you to use SparkNotes as a way to completely avoid doing work. The site can be of help when used properly. In fact, their slogan is “When your books and teacher don’t make sense, we do.”

SparkNotes’ reputation as a site where students go to cheat for tests and avoid work is unjustified. Barnes & Noble owns SparkNotes. It makes no sense for the largest book retailer in the United States to own a website that discourages reading. SparkNotes is much more than that.

In its “No Fear” section, to help students with more challenging books, the site provides side-by-side text translation to more than 20 Shakespeare titles such as Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing, plays people all over the nation struggle to understand, including myself.

SparkNotes’ ability to help students doesn’t stop at books. It provides study guides for 19 subjects–everything from biology to U.S. government and politics. But wait, there’s more. There is also an entire section dedicated to preparing for large tests such as the ACT, SAT and GRE as well as AP study guides.

We should learn to view SparkNotes as what it really is, a resource. However, that comes with a large amount of responsibility. It needs to be used both in moderation and with care. When handled correctly, SparkNotes can be an efficent, productive study tool.