Academic Research Today

Today I was thinking back to the days when I did my research for my thesis and wondered if today’s resources would make the task easier. As most of us over 50 know the information age and internet/World Wide Web has created a revolution in how research and academic studies are done. Gone are the days of the card catalog and using a book to find academic studies and articles on a topic of research. Today one just needs to find a link to a search engine or reference database and type in what they are researching.

As nice as this is there is still the problem of finding the ‘right’ information and in part what the digital age has done is actually made that task more daunting. The reason is that so much information comes up from a search that it takes some time to find the most appropriate material. For example my Masters thesis topic was ‘creative organizational climate’ back in the early 90’s my extensive searches on computerized services such as ERIC, PsycArticles, PsycINFO and PsycLIT located about 650 articles and books of which I used almost 150 in my theses. At the time these database services were new and often incomplete so cross checking and going to the reference section of the library and physically searching was needed. At the time I was doing my literature search I estimated I spent over 124 hours in the library searching, retrieving, reviewing and copying the relevant articles.

Just now I did a search on ‘creative organizational climate’ using my computer connected to the internet via a cable connection and used Google Scholar and in .06 seconds I had 146,000 references to comb through. To help reduce that number I sorted the results further to only look at articles since 2009 and that provided me with 19,400 references. Briefly reviewing the first 50 I was impressed to see that 46 of the articles were truly relevant to my search. Of these 46 articles I could look at or print about 20 from my computer. The rest I could go to the journals publisher and purchase a pdf copy, contact the article’s author(s) or go to the local library and obtain copies.

Based upon this quick little study and projecting out the time needed to get the material I’d want/need for a new thesis I think the process would be significantly faster in getting the references and material. Of course there is the problem of getting too much information and I think sorting through the material would take some extra time. Still, I’d say there would be a reduction in research time of about 30% over what I did in the early 90’s and the material would be richer. I can further support this reflection by my experience when I helped a student last year on her thesis that the process to collect reference and research material only took about 80 hours and we had more than enough to write a great thesis and research her hypothesis.

Now to just find creative uses for those old card catalogues that no longer have a purpose you might start with some ideas at Poetic Home.




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Filed under Academic Advice, Learning Resources, My Experiences

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