Post 2 – Finding the Research
As I stated in Post 1, the purpose of this series is to empower educators to take control of their professional development with research. Often times, the prescribed whole-school PD doesn’t meet the needs of all classes and students. I believe teachers should invest in seeking out your own development, specific to your class rosters. Who knows your student’s classroom needs better than you? I believe, to improve the education of our students, teachers need to know the following:
- where to find relevant research,
- how to read the research,
- and how to apply the research.
In this post, I will give you hints and tips for finding research relevant to your classroom. For the past eight months, I have experienced the highs and lows of seeking out education research on the internet. The ‘highs’ being times where I am granted access to full texts of articles. The ‘lows’, which occur more often than the highs, result from the rejection of not having a proper login or the inability to gain access to a database of journals because I am not affiliated with a university. This is certainly quite frustrating and will be discussed a bit further below.
Here are the main avenues I’ve encountered to find research:
- Digital Promise – www.digitalpromise.org
I actually like this site. Using the ‘research map’ to search for key terms or authors, you receive a plethora of papers representative of your search. The site is really well organized and has many other options, like ‘ask a researcher’, that really attempt to make the novice learner/researcher/curator feel comfortable.
- ResearchGate – www.researchgate.net
Not going to lie…this site is the worst for the classroom teacher who wants to find full text research articles. Unless you have published research or are working on publishing, you will be denied access. If you search for a particular topic, you will be given a list of papers to comb through. Most of these will only provide the abstract and the option to ask the author for access to the full paper. I’m not entirely sure this option works, as I’ve requested access many times and I’ve never heard back once from the researcher. There is an option to enter a researcher’s email to essentially vouch for you when requesting full access to the site. I’ve tried this path twice as Dr. Yana Weinstein (@doctorwhy and @AceThatTest) so graciously agreed to support my attempts at access. On both occasions, I eventually received an email notification of denial.
- Google Scholar – www.scholar.google.com
Just like google’s basic search engine, google scholar is quite simple and efficient. Search by key term or author and you receive the most relevant results. You will, however, be presented with articles that do not allow for full text unless you have a login. The easy way to tell the difference between accessibility is to look for a pdf link to the right of the web address. If this is present, choose the pdf, and you’ll see the full paper. If you do not see a pdf link, you will only have access to the abstract. A neat feature of google scholar is ‘my library’. You can select and organize research articles that are of interest to you to keep in one place for easy finding.
- Sci-Hub – www.sci-hub.cc
I am very hesitant to mention this site at all…because it’s illegal. We’re talking pirated full text articles. I don’t know how it works and I don’t want to know. An article published here by Science discusses the power of sci-hub and how it could potentially undo journals with paywall access to articles. It is an interesting read and worth your time to understand the clout sci-hub is drawing. While the practices of sci-hub are against the law, it does bring up the topic of open access with respect to publishing. I do not recommend you use sci-hub. It’s illegal. Don’t do it.
- Author – Author’s email or social media outlets
I’ve saved the best for last…simply email the author(s) and ask for access to their paper. If you can’t find a viable email, locate them on a social media outlet. Please be honest when asking for access; tell the author how you plan to use their research. These authors/researchers invest a large amount of time in their work and a gracious email showing genuine interest means a lot. I have emailed many authors requesting their work and I have never been denied. In fact, once they know my general area of interest, they often send me other related articles they’ve worked on.
I am, by no means, declaring these five methods the only ways to access journal articles. If you know of another path, please comment below.
The next post, Post 3, is probably the most important — Reading the Research. It’s one thing to find relevant research through an internet search, it’s another thing to understand how to read a ‘good’ article. It takes a specific skill set and practice to do it well. Also, what makes ‘good’ research? How do you know you can trust the information you are reading? These important questions, and more, will be answered; lining us up well to finish out the series with Post 4 — Applying the Research.