Lesson 1 - Welcome to the New World of Information
Part One: Understanding Information in the Information Age
Information in today's world is confusing. When it comes to academic information, the kind you will be using in your studies at TWU, we have less and less certainty about what kinds of information can be called "scholarly."
Please view the following presentation to see some of the challenges (enlarge it to full screen in the lower right of the presentation and use the arrow keys to navigate):
Many of us have long immersed ourselves in Google culture. It's now going to be difficult to accept the notion that Google in academic life is going to start letting us down, both by not being able to provide us with the resources we are looking for and by costing us a lot of time looking for information that is more easily available elsewhere. Most academic articles and books are not available through a Google search.
Part Two: Understanding Scholarship in the Information Age
Let's start with a brief introduction to the "scholar" of today. Scholars (professors, academic authors) are a different sort of breed from the rest of humanity. They know a great deal about, and have expertise in, a small part of the information landscape. In that sense, they are high level specialists. Because of this kind of specialization, the world of academic information is divided up into various disciplines like psychology, leadership, chemistry, and so on. In fact, each discipline has numerous sub-disciplines. Scholars for the most part find a niche in a discipline or sub-discipline and develop their expertise there. A discipline is governed by three important factors:
1. The knowledge base - What scholars rely on for sources of information. Scholars will determine which information they trust and find useful to them. Certain authors will be regarded as more important than others. In general, scholars are very protective of their knowledge base, using procedures like peer review (a quality control method) when publishing new books and articles in their field.
2. The culture - Just like there are national and local cultures, each discipline has a culture, a way of thinking and doing that may seem baffling to students. Scholars are fascinated by things that others may find strange or boring, they use terminology that only other scholars in their field understand, and they have ways of conducting themselves as scholars that are unique to their discipline. They also have beliefs about the importance of their discipline and what it takes to be considered a colleague in their work.
3. Method - Each discipline has a specific way of doing research. This includes procedures, recognition of what sort of evidence is valid, and ways to making a case for something or arguing a point. Even the structure of their writings may vary so that a history paper looks nothing like a paper in biochemistry.
Overall, however, there are a number of common understandings among scholars as to the nature of what we call "scholarship." Let's explore what those are:
View the following presentation, "What is Scholarship?" [Open it to full screen]. There will be questions on it in Assignment One, so you might want to keep the Assignment One questions handy as you view the presentation.
Part Three: Starting with a Working Knowledge
A lot of students flounder in their research because of a lack of basic understanding about the topic they are dealing with. You need a working knowledge to begin navigating through a research project. Working knowledge? It's enough knowledge so you can speak about a topic for a minute. Just the basics. With that knowledge you can begin to consider possible problems, issues, gaps in understanding that could be addressed.
[An important note: As you consider a topic to work on in Assignment #1, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know what topic you are considering. In this way, I can determine whether your topic is going to work for the assignments in this course. I will try to get back to you within 12 hours].
Where do you get a working knowledge? A common starting point these days is an online reference source like Wikipedia, though you need to use some caution with this tool. See your Research Strategies textbook, section 3.5.2. The alternative is a standard reference tool - a dictionary or encyclopedia related broadly to your subject area, like Encyclopedia of Leadership or Dictionary of Cognitive Science. Most of these require a login (the same one you use for your TWU Student Portal). Click on one of the linked book titles above and try out your login to confirm that it works.
To find the library's whole range of reference tools, go to this link - http://libguides.twu.ca/?b=s - click on a relevant subject area, and choose the Encyclopedias tab. You will either get a list of links to dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. or some guidance as to how to find them. Contact me if you have difficulty with this.
Viewthis tutorialas a model for how to find reference articles in Encyclopedia of Leadership and also in an EBSCO e-book reference source.
Now go on to assignment #1, which includes readings from the textbook.