Archive for November, 2010

Are these the journal articles you’re looking for?

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Getting to journals and journal articles is still more difficult than it should be – how are online services trying to help students and academics get to the latest research?

Journal Stacks (Serials)

TechCrunch reports that Academia.edu has launched a directory of 12,500 academic journals as part of their website. The idea seems to be that by using your social network of connections, recommended readings will come to you, rather than having to seek them out yourself.

The journal directory has a simple keyword search interface and you can also browse by topics – such as history, economics or chemistry. Titles are not ranked according to their impact factors, perceived authority or other qualitative measures, but according to how many followers they have amongst the Academia.edu community.

This is certainly a competitive area with a number of other key services working on this and other journal related issues – some favourites services of mine are:

JournalTOCs a free and searchable collection of scholarly journal Tables of Contents (TOCs). It contains TOCs for nearly 15000 journals collected from over 600 publishers. By registering, users can get email alerts about new TOCs and save their list of TOCs online.

The Directory of Open Access Journals covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals, across all subjects and languages. Almost 6000 journals are listed in the directory and nearly 2500 journals are searchable at article level, providing access to close to half a million articles.

Jurn is a curated academic search-engine, indexing 3,692 free ejournals in the arts and humanities. It includes “online academic or art-world/literary publications displaying i) clear editorial control and ii) offering at least some substantial free content.”

The key issue that these services are trying to address is solving the conundrum of getting academics and students to relevant individual articles when they are spread all over the Web, as in the case of Open Access titles or behind the paywalls of a myriad of commercial publishers.

It’s a subject that we address in all of our Virtual Training Suite tutorials:

However, it’s clearly an evolving area and it will be interesting to see whether Academia.edu can succeed in using these social networks to help students and academics find their way through the journal article maze.

Picture credit: Dentistry Library: Journals stacks (serials) from rosefirerising on Flickr.

Links of the week

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. RT @MakeUseOf Create Your Own Personal Learning Environment Using SymbalooEDU http://muo.fm/bGeHfs
  2. RT: @HEAcademy: We’ve launched a major new guidance report on student plagiarism today. Read the full report here. http://tiny.cc/6zwq6
  3. Why do students use Wikipedia? In their own words … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nOe26xY1zM from Project Information Literacy
  4. RT @resourceshelf Universities May be Failing to Sufficiently Teach Basic Research Skills http://web.resourceshelf.com/go/resourceblog/61846
  5. When did search become research? http://goo.gl/fb/j8LsR
  6. Reading: Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation” http://bit.ly/aShNh5
  7. RT @universityboy How to read around a subject: http://t.co/DpdYCTY
  8. RT @mashable Twitter Increases Student Engagement http://on.mash.to/950ISI
  9. Students expectations of technology http://goo.gl/fb/6dHHi

When did search become research?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Typing a few keywords into Google isn’t research, yet the words search and research are often bandied about as though they were interchangeable – but is this a new problem? Surprisingly, no.

The notion that the word research is used when we really mean search, is a topic that I’ve meant to look into for quite a while. It’s something that I feel a tad guilty about, after all we use the tagline – Developing Internet research skills – for the Virtual Training Suite.

I set out to do a bit of preliminary Internet searching expecting to be swamped by news stories chastising students for being too reliant on Google or Wikipedia and opinion pieces saying that the Internet is making us stupid or enhancing our brains in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Instead, I was drawn to an article on PubMed Central from the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association – When does search become research? by Edith Dernehl, read at the 43d Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association at Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 29 … in 1941.

She starts by neatly outlining the problem, in terms that ring true nearly 70 years later.

“Research has as its object the exploration of uncharted fields, while search leads only into domains previously explored. We all know that many a search wrongly assumes the name of research, when the work reported has hardly shown evidence of even a thorough survey of a subject, and has no trace of the original thought so essential to any project dignified by the name research.”

But the student or academic should be just as careful as the commentator in their choice of words to describe their work.

“No matter in what field he chooses to work, he must bring originality of thought or of approach to the task. Without these attributes or without new truth, his work can at best be called a library search and should never be classed as research work.”

However, the librarian must treat the searcher and researcher equally.

“One of the qualities most necessary for a librarian, therefore, is vision; she must show judgment, guided by imagination, in her decisions, and she must cultivate an understanding for the needs of the searcher and the researcher alike.”

She concludes by saying that:

“A search will often be rewarded with useful information; if not, then even a small problem, solved by a live intelligence, may well be called a bit of research well done.”

Suitably chastised that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, I’ve discovered that search became conflated with research at least as far back as 1941 and probably a lot earlier! And perhaps I won’t feel so bad about saying research when I mean search – as it’s clearly not something that has come about purely since the invention of the Internet.

Students expectations of technology

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Two recent studies looking at student attitudes to technology have found similar themes, despite being conducted on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is the annual survey of US undergraduate students that looks at their ownership, use and perceptions of technology both inside and outside the classroom.

Student Perspectives on Technology – demand, perceptions and training needs is a report from the NUS undertaken as part of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. It took a more qualitative approach using consultation events, online discussions and an online survey of FE students.

So what did they discover …

Searching skills

Both studies show that students think that they are good online searchers.

88.6% agree that they were effective online researchers. (NUS / HEFCE)

Eight out of ten (81%) students considered themselves expert or very skilled in searching the Internet effectively and efficiently. (ECAR)

Information literacy training

However, both studies also reveal that students have concerns about how to use the information they find online for academic purposes.

There was a common request for more skills training, particularly around how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources in the NUS / HEFCE study.

Student ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online information and understand ethical / legal issues was lower than their assessment of how effective they are in searching the Internet in the ECAR study.

Amount of technology used in teaching

Both studies show that students are cautious about the amount of technology used in teaching and prefer a blended approach of technological and traditional teaching methods.

The NUS / HEFCE study shows that students prefer a choice in how they learn and that opinions are fundamentally divided over e-learning. It was recognised that not every area of study needed e-learning and that is would be more effective if it was an option, not an obligation.

The ECAR study has consistently found that students only want a “moderate” amount of technology in their courses, although the definition of what a moderate amount is, is probably very different now than it was five years ago.

Other issues

Perhaps the most important findings to bear in mind, come at the end of the ECAR study which concludes that “many student technology adoption patterns are surprisingly stable,” but that “there is no stereotypical student when it comes to technology”.