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Overcoming the barriers to the use of journal articles within the geosciences Richard Waller & Peter Knight School of Physical & Geographical Sciences.

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Presentation on theme: "Overcoming the barriers to the use of journal articles within the geosciences Richard Waller & Peter Knight School of Physical & Geographical Sciences."— Presentation transcript:

1 Overcoming the barriers to the use of journal articles within the geosciences Richard Waller & Peter Knight School of Physical & Geographical Sciences Keele University

2 Background Journal articles provide a rich source of information. Highlight recent discoveries, debates etc. Personal experience suggests students are reluctant to engage with journals. Independent citation analyses suggest their use is declining in favour of more easily accessible text books and internet sources. Research questions: – What are the barriers to student engagement with journal literature? – Can additional training and support in literature search and comprehension skills improve student engagement with journal literature?

3 Changing frequency of citations to books, journals and the internet in final- year dissertations as reported by Oppenheim & Smith (2001, p304). The real paradox lies in the fact that the more resources are made available, the more students are inclined to confine their search strategies to a few of those resources due to the lack of necessary skills required. (Oppenheim & Smith, 2001, p315)

4 Research Design Active Research project: – Participatory style of research considered ideal for improving practice. – AR cycle: planning, acting, observing, reflecting... Curriculum context: – Focused around a year 2 physical geography option entitled Regional Landsystems. – Cohort of 62 students in 2007/8. – Involves a 1500 word essay.

5 STAGE 1: WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS? Initial student questionnaire: 1.Please identify three factors that discourage you from using journal literature. 2.Please identify any additional training or support that could be offered by staff that you believe would help you to use journal literature more effectively.

6 Q1: Identify 3 factors that discourage you... 1.The content is difficult to comprehend. 2.Journals are difficult to access. 3.It is hard to find relevant journal articles. 4.The importance of journals is not clearly established within the degree programme. 5.The student is unconvinced about their importance. 6.Students are given inadequate training. 7.Other sources of information are quicker/easier to use. 8.Using journals is too time consuming. 9.Other.

7 Sample quotations Many journals use complex technical language without explaining what it means. This puts me off reading journals as I struggle to use them effectively. The main problem is, finding journals takes effort and most of us are too lazy.

8 Q2: Identify additional training or support... 1.Improved access to journals. 2.Improved training in the use of online search tools. 3.Improved training in the use of the library. 4.Improved training in year 1. 5.Staff help in highlighting relevant journals and authors. 6.Group discussions of set articles. 7.Greater explanation of their relevance. 8.Use of tied assessments to encourage use. 9.Greater provision of key articles. 10.Other.

9 STAGE 2: DESIGNING THE SOLUTIONS Two main interventions were employed in an attempt to try to encourage student engagement with journal literature: 1.Production of self-help document on how to find relevant journal literature. 2.Introduction of tutorial sessions related to set reading.

10 1. Self-help document



13 2. Small Group Teaching Fortnightly tutorial sessions associated with set reading (provided via institutional VLE). Aims: – Provide small-group session in which staff and students could discuss a set journal article. – Enable staff to explain how journals are structured – help students identify information quickly and easily – enhance confidence. – Opportunity for student to identify and raise problematic issues.

14 STAGE 3: WERE THEY EFFECTIVE? Evaluated the effectiveness of the interventions through: 1.Citation analysis: quantitative comparison of sources used in essays in 2007 (pre-action) and 2008 (post action). 2.Focus group: qualitative exploration of the barriers and solutions

15 Citation Analysis Change in the mean number of sources used: Journal articles+13% Specialist texts+15% Internet sites+241% General texts-54% Total+27%

16 Students T-test No statistically-significant difference in the use of journals between 2007 & Null hypothesis of no difference cannot be rejected at the 90% significance level.


18 Focus Group (n=3)

19 Success of the interventions Tutorial sessions Im not very confident in reading journal articles, but to come in and hear people with the same opinions as me on the journal, and then add other opinions as well was really good for me, because it just broadened my knowledge of the paper, which you wouldnt get normally. I found it really useful. Self-help guide You just follow the instructions and thats great. So, I think it was really, really helpful for me.

20 Limited journal subscriptions The most frustrating thing is finding a perfect article and the abstract is just what you want and then the university is not subscribed to that. Ooh, its just so frustrating. Subject differences The only person that Ive known out of all my friends really is one doing IR, so shes doing politics and things and she has to use journal articles. But everyone else who I know, theyre like, why are you using journal articles? Lack of prior training The thing is at school, you never need to reference anything. So, I mean, if youre doing an essay, youre not going to want to find the best literature because you can just pretend youve read really good literature and when its just from, you know, a Google webpage. So… it doesnt really matter.

21 Solutions: other suggestions Use of tied assessments (10) …maybe every lecture you could do a little test on like the lecture youve done before. I mean thats very American I know, continual assessment. But it worked. Greater guidance (4) I think if Id been given like set phrases that are relevant to the journal literature, that wouldve really helped. Library opening hours (5) Yeh, the library hours need to be a lot longer…

22 STAGE 4: REFLECTING 1.Further work: 2008 Keele Innovation Project. 2.Conclusions.

23 Further Work Examination of the changing use of different learning resources throughout the degree programme...

24 well as between the different cohorts.

25 Concluding Recommendations Provision of greater support and guidance: Incoming students lack the background and key skills required to utilise advanced sources... – Literature search skills (self-help guides). – Comprehension of complex content (tutorial sessions). Introduce students to journals from the outset: Best to get students into the habit of using journals in year 1. Need to justify and provide necessary support. Improved journal access: Students are easily discouraged if they cant easily get hold of the articles they locate. Greater use of assessments: Closer association of journal use with assessment outcomes is a certain way of encouraging their use.

26 Acknowledgements Students who took the Regional Landsystems module last year and who were willing to actively participate in this work. Dr Helena Priestly for her invaluable project supervision. Dr Stephen Bostock for continuing to emphasise the importance of innovation in teaching and learning. My colleagues on the Action Research project for their feedback at various stages.

27 Cited References Gannon-Leary, P., Walton, G., Cader, R., Derbyshire, J. & Smith, A. (2006) Use of evidence by nursing students: an interdisciplinary study. Library & Information Science Research Vol. 28, pp Gray, D.E. (2004) Doing research in the real world. London, Sage Publications Ltd. Heller-Ross, H. (2002) Assessing outcomes with nursing research assignments and citation analysis of student bibliographies. Reference Librarian. Vol. 77, pp Kraus, J. & Fisher, P. (2000) Citation analysis of undergraduate biology department Honors papers at the University of Denver. Date accessed: 18/06/08. Oppenheim, C. & Smith, R. (2001) Student citation practices in an Information Science Department. Education for Information. Vol. 19, pp St. Clair & Magrill, R.M. (1990) Undergraduate term paper citations. College and Research Libraries News. Vol. 51, pp25-28.

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