Image courtesy of Dr. Marcus Gossler
Yesterday, I missed another valuable #EAPChat on Twitter due to my mixed-up schedule at the moment. I really feel I missed out on the discussion, but, thanks to the work of Tyson Seburn, I can always catch up with the summaries. The discussion was instigated by three questions:
- Should EAP practitioners also be researchers?
- How much does research play into your practice?
- What are your favourite sources for research reading?
It wasn’t that long ago that I found myself on the outside of that conversation thinking, “That’s for academics. I’ll leave the research to those who are smarter and more experienced than I am.” Sadly, that is the case for many people. Journal articles are often stuffed full of research data, supporting evidence, and are written in a very academic (sometimes even a bit pretentious) manner. Is that bad? Sometimes. I think that there are certain authors who try really hard to make themselves sound intelligent which often alienates those who need to read the article. Most of the time, the information that is presented is there to show that things have been thought through in a manner that filters out the poor suppositions and misinterpreted data. Leaving all of the raw data in the article gives readers the chance to critically analyze the information for themselves.
This is all great and wonderful, but who has time to read all of these articles and where do you find them? That was the issue that was raised during the context of the #EAPChat. A language teacher has a lot of roles to fill and very little time to fit in professional development. As a result, we need to prioritize what we are going to do with that time and articles often fall to the wayside. It isn’t that we don’t want to read them, it is that we have to spend time finding, reading, critically analyzing, comparing with other research, and applying it to our situations. That is a lot more than just sitting down and reading.
When I was in my MA program, I had to read a number of articles. I got in the habit of reading an article each week and I have tried to continue that practice. I haven’t always been successful, but I feel it is beneficial for my growth as a professional, so I attempt to make time for it. I thought I would share some of the ways I locate my articles. Not everyone has access to a university library journal database like I do, so I will share some of the websites I use to find free access articles.
Google Scholar: It’s the obvious first choice since it is most familiar to people. It is different than the regular Google web search in that is attempts to only locate academic material. My tips include:
- limiting you search to recent articles. Do a search and then click on the times under ‘Any time’. I usually use ‘Since 2009’.
- taking off the ‘include citations’ check at the bottom.
- looking for HTML or PDF articles on the right side of the page. A major majority of those will be available publicly.
- creating an alert by using the ‘Create alert’ link on the right side, near the bottom. This brings up a form. Fill in your email address, change the alert to ‘Show up to 20 results’, and click on ‘Create Alert’. You will now get an email alert letting you know of new articles that come up within those search parameters.
Microsoft Academic Search: This is similar to Google Scholar, but you can create RSS feeds based on search parameters. You can also search by DOI and on conference information. My tips include:
- limiting your search to recent articles. Do a search and then use the dropdown menu on the right marked ‘any time’. Choose a year and your search results will update.
- clicking on a title and bringing up the document information. Click on the DOI link under the summary to view the article.
- subscribing to the RSS feed of your search by clicking on the ‘Subscribe’ button near the top of the search. This opens up the RSS feed in your feed reader.
- choosing your area of research by clicking on the field names on the left.
DOAJ: This is the Directory of Open Access Journals. You can search or browse for journals by subject or you can do a search for articles. The articles are from lesser known journals, but some good content here as well. My tips include:
- limiting your search to recent articles. Do a search and then choose a year from the right-hand side. You can also type in a year range.
- clicking on ‘Fulltext’ under any title will bring up the article.
- clicking on ‘Keywords’ will allow you to see the tags used for that article. You can click on any keyword and it will do a new search using that tag.
- clicking on ‘No charges’ under ‘Publication Fee’ will limit your search to free articles.
JURN: This is a custom Google search that indexes 4,507 free journals and often finds things that Google Scholar misses. My tips include:
- sorting your information by date by clicking on the ‘Sort’ button after doing a search and choosing ‘Date’. This puts the more recent articles at the top.
- looking at the source by checking out the URL under the summary. This helps identify where it comes from.
JSTOR Register and Read program: JSTOR is a powerful journal database that is available to universities that pay for it. The problem is getting access as a individual. You can read all about their free ‘Register and Read’ program here. You don’t have access to everything and it limits how often / how much you can use it, but it is better than nothing.
So how do I look for articles? I tend to think about my day as I prepare lessons, teach, do administrative work, etc. and reflect on what components might be worth digging into a bit more. Sometimes I read a blog post or tweet and it triggers something for me. I do a search, find three or so articles, skim them / read the abstracts and conclusions to find if they are relevant, and then sit down and read through them with a notebook beside me. I take a few notes and then I try to think about how that might work in my context. Now, I have started blogging about those things to share with others and to get people’s feedback.
How would you answer the #EAPChat questions for yourself? Do you have favourite places to find articles? Please share your experience with us. We can learn together. Thanks