Working with Scholarly Articles | Allison Hosier | Skillshare

Working with Scholarly Articles

Allison Hosier

Working with Scholarly Articles

Allison Hosier

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6 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. What are scholarly articles?

    • 3. Finding scholarly articles

    • 4. Characteristics of scholarly articles

    • 5. Reading a scholarly article

    • 6. Closing thoughts

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About This Class

Scholarly articles are a great source of information about current research in a particular field. This information can be incredibly useful for everything from better understanding news stories about "the latest research" on a topic of interest to completing a research assignment for a class to enhancing a presentation at work. Unfortunately, scholarly articles can be challenging to find and to work with. Whether you are doing research as part of your academic, professional, or personal life, this class will help you up your research game by teaching you more about what scholarly articles are, how to find them, and how to get the most from them.

At the end of this course, you'll be asked to locate the full text of a scholarly article and briefly summarize it in your own words in a format appropriate to a general (rather than scholarly) audience so that you can impress your professor, boss, or friends with your new knowledge!

This class is great for anyone looking to hone their research skills and learn how to think beyond basic Google searches when it comes to seeking information. It's also a good refresher for those with some research experience.

Meet Your Teacher

Hi, I'm Allison! I've been teaching information literacy at the college level since 2011. Information literacy is, simply put, the ability to find, evaluate, and use information effectively, usually in a research context. But it isn't just college students who can benefit from learning these skills--it's everyone! And since the way we access and use information changes so often, we have to keep learning them in order to become more confident users and creators of information. I'm not only interested in teaching about this, I've also written about it both in scholarly articles that have been published in some of the top journals in my field and on my blog. And as a lifelong learner, I enjoy learning new skills that I can apply to my teaching or life in general!

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1. Introduction: a search for the phrase study finds on NPR dot org's turns up over 25,000 news articles was headlines touting the latest research findings on a variety of subjects, from whether cats recognize their names to air pollution to the consequences of bad diets. You've probably seen headlines like these in your own searches for news, and maybe you've wondered where this information comes from. Before they reached the news. Research studies are often published in the form of scholarly articles. The scholarly articles are written by the researchers themselves. They discuss in detail what research was done, how they did it and why that research is important. Scholarly articles are most commonly used by students and academics as sources for their own research papers and articles, but they can also be highly valuable in other ways as well. Being able to work with scholarly articles not only up to research game but could be useful for verifying the information in the study finds new stories which is important, since these articles often inadvertently misrepresent the research they discuss in order to create an attractive sound bite. Plus, if you live in the United States, your tax dollars helped fund a lot of the research that's being done. So reading about this research is a way to see how your money is being put to work. Unfortunately, working with scholarly articles can be challenging. This class will teach you not only how to find and identify scholarly articles, but also how to get the most out of reading them. By the end, you'll be able to locate a scholarly article using either library database or Google Scholar and summarize the content of that article in your own words for a general audience . My name is Allison Hosier, and I've been teaching information literacy at the college level since 2011. I'm so excited to help you learn about all of the great information you confined in a scholarly article so that you can impress your professor boss or friends with your knowledge. Let's get started 2. What are scholarly articles?: The first thing you need to know about scholarly articles is that they're different from magazine or newspaper articles like those you might see in The New York Times or Time magazine, so the publications, like The New York Times and Time magazine, are credible. They're not Scott Lee. So let's explore some of the differences. Magazine and newspaper articles are typically written for a general audience, so that means that anyone who is interested in the topic can read these articles and understand their content, even if it's their first time hearing about it. Scholarly articles, on the other hand, are written for specialized audiences. They used jargon and other specialized language that could make them difficult to understand. If you're not an expert on the topic, magazine and newspaper articles tend to be about current events or issues, so the purpose is to keep readers updated on important developments. Meanwhile, the purpose of a scholarly article is to describe a research study, including the methodology used, the findings and the implications of those findings. Magazine and newspaper articles are written by journalists, while scholarly articles are written by researchers, and these researchers can be professors who work for university or people affiliated with a research institution or anything like that. So the one thing scholarly articles have in common with newspaper and magazine articles is that they're reviewed by editors before being published. The editors checked things like grammar and spelling, and they also checked the accuracy of the article. But in addition to this editing process, scholarly articles go through something called peer review. Superior view is a process where, prior to publication, an article will be evaluated by other expert researchers who use their expertise to determine whether the research study the article describes was original, meaning no one's done it before valid, meaning the research was done correctly and ethically and important, meaning the research makes a valuable contribution to the field of knowledge on that subject. So this peer review process adds an extra layer of credibility to the content of the article. As an example, an article that I recently wrote went through the peer review process before being published in a journal called College and Research Libraries. The reviewers were other researchers in my field who were familiar with topics related to the research I was doing, so the feedback they gave me initially was essentially that while my article had some important and original ideas about information literacy, my topic of study I wasn't drawing clear enough connections between those ideas and that was weakening the case I was trying to make. They invited me to revise my work to make my case stronger and resubmit it for a second review. This might sound discouraging, but since college and research libraries is the top journal in my field, it was actually a good thing because it meant that they weren't rejecting the article outright. They wanted to publish my work. I just had to make some changes to it first. So making those changes gave my work that extra layer of credibility I mentioned before. Perhaps the biggest difference between scholarly articles and non scholarly articles is that while magazine and newspaper articles can often be found through a simple search on Google or another search engine that you might be familiar with, scholarly articles are not so. We'll be talking more about that in the next section 3. Finding scholarly articles: as mentioned at the start of this course, There are some challenges associated with working with scholarly articles. One is reading them, which will be talking about a little bit later. The other is finding them. Scholarly articles generally can't be found through a normal Google search. So defined scholarly articles you have to look elsewhere. Luckily, there are a couple of options. The first requires an affiliation with the university or college. So if you're a student employee or alarm at an institution of higher education, the best option for accessing scholarly articles is probably going to be the research databases available through your university's library. These databases are collections of scholarly information gathered together in one place to support the scholarly and academic research conducted by the institutions, faculty and students. Those who are affiliated with the institution concerts these databases and access the full text of scholarly journals at no additional charge because the institution has paid the subscription fee necessary toe access this information. So if you need help searching these databases, ask a librarian at your institution. Librarians like me, our expert researchers who are happy to help you to get started with your search for scholarly information. If you don't have access to a university library, try the public library in your town Instead. Public libraries are sometimes able to provide access to scholarly databases to their patrons through special grants. To find out if this is the case that your library the best thing to do is call them and ask to speak to the reference desk. Another option is a search Google scholar you can navigate to Google Scholar, but going to scholar dot google dot com The search page for this resource looks a lot like regular Google, but it only searches scholarly information. So I'm going to do an example. Search for social media and privacy. The search returns millions of results. For each result, there is a snapshot of information, including the title of the article, some information about who wrote it and where and when it was published. If I want, I can leave the search results as is and start scrolling through them to find something that looks relevant. Or I can use the filters on the left to customize my results a little by choosing a date range or choosing whether I want my results sorted by relevance were sorted by date. Using these options can be helpful for a topic like this one, because Social Media is something that is constantly changing. So I would want to make sure I had the most recent information for other topics. Sorting by date, maybe unimportant. If I find an article that looks interesting, I'll click on the title of the article that brings me to The Journal's website. On this page, I can see some more detailed information about the article, including the full list of authors and their credentials and a preview of the first page of the article. I can use this information to really help me decide if this article is of interest. What happens if I want to read the whole article? Well, here's where things get tricky. I see that there's a PdF link just above the image of the articles. First page. That's the link I need to click if I want to see the articles full text. But when I click it, I get a message giving my options to access the article. What this is basically telling me is that if I want to read the full article, I have to pay money. In this case, I can either pay $7 for temporary access, $17 for a read only version, meaning I wouldn't be able to download or print my own copy or $42 for a copy that I can download and keep permanently. The important thing to know here is that this isn't a trick or anything like that. While news and magazine articles are often free to access online, scholarly articles are much more likely to be behind a paywall, and the amount you have to pay for a single article can be pretty high. These prices are set by the Journal Publishers. The reason it helps to have an affiliation with the university or other institution. It's because the institution pays those costs for you. So if you have an affiliation like that and you're searching Google Scholar and come upon a situation like this where you're being asked to pay for access to an article, my advice would be to consult with your library. It's likely they can give you access to that same article at no additional charge, either through their own subscription or through inter library loan. If you don't have an affiliation, you're gonna have to decide if you want to pay act for access to the article or not. If it's an article that you're really interested in, you may have no choice. But if you're just learning about the topic and you don't necessarily need that exact article, then you can always keep looking. The good news here is that there are some scholarly journals out there which allow free, open access to some or all of their content to anyone. You just have to keep clicking until you find one. For example, this article from First Monday allows me to access the full text of the article. Sometimes it can take a while to find an article from a journal that will allow you free access. Once you do access an article, whether a free one or one that you decided to pay for their a few steps you can take to help ensure the article is in fact, scholarly. And that's what we'll talk about next 4. Characteristics of scholarly articles: Once you find a scholarly article, there are a few steps you'll need to take to verify that this article is, in fact, scholarly, even if you found it through a library database or Google scholar. This is mostly important for students whose grades on research projects might be affected if it turns out that information they're using isn't scholarly. But even if that's not you, it could be helpful to know how to distinguish a scholarly article from other types of articles. First, look at the article's title. News and magazine articles tend to have short, catchy titles that are meant to attract attention with scholarly articles, tend to be long and use a lot of specialized language called jargon. So a long title with lots of big words is usually a good sign that something is scholarly. Next, look for information about the author. This might be contained within the article itself, or you might have to do a quick Google search. Look to see if the author has an affiliation with the university or another type of research institution. If they do, this is another good sign. Also, if you notice that the article has more than one author, and especially if it has more than three authors. That's an additional indication that it's a scholarly article by nature, since in some fields, scholarly articles are written by teams of people rather than just one person. The third clue is the length of the article. News and magazine articles tend to be relatively short, sometimes even just a fraction of a page. Scholarly articles, on the other hand, tend to be quite long. The length will vary according to the fields of research. But generally speaking, if the article your reading is more than 10 pages long, it's probably a scholarly article. There are other clues you can look for two, such as the title of the journal in which the article was published and the content of the abstract. But looking for at least these three clues is a good start. Remember that if you're not sure, you can always ask a librarian or other research expert for help 5. Reading a scholarly article: So now that you know a little bit about how to find and identifies Carly article, let's talk about how to actually read one. The bad news about scholarly articles is that they tend to be long, usually 10 pagers or more. I've seen ones that are long as 50 or 60 pages, So if you like to read, that might be no problem. But if you're going for efficiency, reading a scholarly articles straight through from beginning to end isn't the best way to go about it. So here I'm going to tell you a little bit about a common structure for scholarly articles so that you know where to focus your attention to get the most out of the article. Not all scholarly articles follow this exact structure, but being aware of each of these elements and their function can still help you become a more effective and efficient reader of a scholarly article, no matter what form it might take In the interest of full disclosure, the section is adapted from the content of an online tutorial I created as part of my day job teaching information literacy. However, the information in that tutorial was specifically tailored to the students I teach in the institution where I teach them. While this information is a little more generalized for a wider audience, it's also a little more detailed. Okay, so let's talk about some of the common building blocks of scholarly articles when you open the full text of a scholarly article. The first thing you're likely to see other than the title and author is something called the Abstract. The abstract is a short summary of the article that tells you a little bit about what problem the author was trying to solve. The motivation for solving the problem, the research method they used, the results and the conclusion. It's basically a spoiler for the whole article that follows. The reason the abstract is there is to help you decide whether the article is relevant to your interests and whether it's worth reading the article in more detail. Remember that scholarly articles can be lengthy and expensive to access, so this information will let you know if it's worth your time and money to keep reading. Next will come a section that's labeled the introduction. So this is the part where the author expands on the abstract in order to give context to their research. So they might describe in more detail what circumstances led to their choice to conduct this research. They might also talk about how their contribution fills in a gap in the scholarly conversation around this topic, or why their approach to the topic is important and unique compared to the others who have written about the same topic. After the introduction comes something called the Literature Review. This is where the author discusses the sources being used as the foundation for the research they conducted. The author will analyze and respond to previous work that's related to their own. The literature review will help you as a reader understand where the authors ideas come from. And if you care to dig deeper into that topic, give you ideas for sources to seek out. The literature review is important for anyone who either wants to do their own check of the quality of the authors research in other words, someone who wants to make sure the author is using good sources or for those who want to do further research on the same topic. If you're not really interested in doing further research, I would say the literature review is good to read if you have time, but it doesn't need to be a priority. Next is usually the method section, which describes how the research was done. Remember how I said previously that one of the goals of the peer review process is to make sure that the research was done correctly and ethically Well, this is the section that's meant to prove that the section is also important for anyone who's looking to replicate the research. In other words, another researcher who would like to use the same methodology in their own work. If that's not you, the method section can be safely skipped. Trust me, you won't miss anything. You may not be interested in how the research was done, but you probably want to know what the results of the research were, so you'd think that the results are finding section that often comes after The method section would be a big priority, but actually it's not. The result section is usually mostly just a lot of raw numbers. Again, the section is important for anyone who wants to check the validity of the research. But if that's not what you're interested in, feel free to move on to the next section. The discussion section of the article is where the real analysis happens, and this is probably where you want to focus the most attention if you're interested, not only in what the research found, but what their findings mean. So if the introduction describes the problem the author was trying to solve, this is the section where they tell you how the results helped to solve that problem. We're not information about the limitations of the research, maybe mixed in with a larger discussion, or it may be a separate section of its own. Either way, the section is very important, especially because this is the information that those studies finds News stories tend to leave out. The section is basically a disclaimer where the researcher acknowledges the limitations of their work. These limitations could be a lot of things Ah, common example has to do with the study's sample size or population. So study of a new medical procedure that can help a lot of people that has positive results is really exciting. But if only a few people participated in the study, that means there's no way of knowing if the results are really applicable to the general population. This doesn't mean that the research is bad. It just means that we have to wait for another study to be done on a larger sample size to know if that procedure is actually beneficial or not. Finally, there's the conclusion. As you would probably expect. This is where the author brings it all together and reflects briefly, once more on the problem at hand what was done to solve that problem and future opportunities. So when you read a scholarly article, where should you focus your attention in order to get the most out of it in an efficient manner? Well, here's what I do is someone who is generally not looking to replicate or validate the research in a scholarly article. First, I read the abstract. Decide of the article is relevant to my interests. Then I read the introduction. After I read the introduction, I skipped to the discussion and limitations. If I have time, I go back to the literature review, I usually skip the methods and results sections altogether. That method might work for you, or you might prefer to focus elsewhere Or read the whole article straight through whichever strategy you use. You now know more about how to get the most out of a scholarly article. 6. Closing thoughts: so that was a quick course on finding and working with Carly articles. It's a lot of information to pack into a series of short videos, but hopefully it's enough to get you started. The project for this class is to find the full text of a scholarly article using either library database. If you have access to one or Google scholar, read the content of the article and summarize it in your own words in a way that would be appropriate to a general audience rather than a scholarly one. In the video and searching for scholarly articles, you saw that sometimes scholarly journals require you to pay for access to an article in order to read its full text. I want to make it clear that you were absolutely not required to spend money to access an article to complete this assignment, unless for some reason you want to, it is more than acceptable to choose an article that you can access for free to complete this task, even if you don't feel like it's the perfect article for your topic. If you find you need help either with this class project or with research in general, please feel free to reach out to me or to your local library in. As I mentioned earlier, librarians like me are experts in research, and we love to provide assistance in the search for information. Also, be on the lookout for future classes. I'm planning to help you learn even more research skills. I've really enjoyed working with you in this class and I look forward to seeing your project. Thanks for watching.