Grades on Canvas.
On Folks That Don’t Know Their Own Field
When I encounter emerging scholars or practitioners in a field related to TPC (i.e. technical communication, UX, content strategy, digital marketing) who don’t know any of the literature of their own field, I’m not sure how to respond. Two years ago I attended a national-level UX conference, for example, and was excited to receive an invitation from the prestigious UX trade journal Boxes and Arrows to write an article about the importance of academic-industry partnerships.
Upon returning to the group of designers I’d been schmoozing with before discussing my potential article with an editor of the journal, I announced excitedly: “I just got invited to submit something to Boxes and Arrow!”
“Ooh!” Designer 1 exclaimed instantly.
“What’s that?” Designer 2 asked, confused?
Designer 2 was a professional who was probably being paid at least 1.5x my own salary to deliver cutting-edge user experiences for a major company. And he had no idea what one of the flagship journals in his own field was.
To say that I was shocked is putting it mildly. More so, however, it made me wonder: what exactly was this major company paying him to do when he clearly had no idea where to find best practices in his own field?
A literature review is a summary of any previous research on a specified topic that a researcher takes on in order to identify what other researchers have already done on that topic. In the research process, its purpose is to make sure that the prospective researcher understands what research came before them in order to help them figure out what new areas they’d like to explore and study that have not been studied before. Without a literature review, it’s possible a researcher would not be able to determine if their work would be new or a duplication of previous work, nor they be able to ascertain where their particular topic connects with others or where it fills in gaps.It’s useful to consider how a literature review can also help people other than yourself as the researcher. Keeping in mind that some of your readers will not have the background knowledge that you do means that you may want to write the literature review knowing that the audience may be hearing this information for the first time – something that may change the way you approach it. I had also never considered how a literature review could add credibility to your work (or, perhaps, that the lack of a literature review could make you look less credible) – it’s also useful to consider how to use the literature review to intentionally establish this credibility. Finally, the most useful tip was simply the list of ways to find sources: specific bibliographies, libraries, and websites that I had never heard of, but will definitely investigate for use going forward. – Margaret
Building a Relationship with Field Literature
If you’re not aware of current trends in your field, whether you’re a scholar or a practitioner or somewhere in-between, then you are out of alignment with best practices. Thought leaders in every field are constantly pushing the boundaries of methods, knowledge-making practices, and techniques.
What is a thought leader? Someone who is considered a leader in a given field.
What is a best practice? Something that is agreed upon by qualified professionals to be the best way to approach a problem.
Notice that these definitions are relational and problematic: “considered a leader.” “Agreed upon by…”
Literature in a field represents an ongoing conversation. If you’re not at least aware of that conversation, then you’re stabbing in the dark. How can you know that what you do each day at work is effective if you have no definition for what is and isn’t effective?
An annotated bibliography is a document that cites multiple relevant sources to a particular research topic and provides a brief summary and analysis of each source. According to the article, an annotated bibliographyis used as a research aid torecall the source’s content, compare/contrast the sources, measure the importance of the source to the research topic, and draw from the research conducted in these sources to strengthen newresearch.
The tip in this article that I found the most helpful were stating the ability to reproduce theauthor’s abstract (and giving clear instructions on how to do so) in the bibliography. This can be a major time saver when the purpose of the annotations is simply to record the overview of the source for reference on the source’s credibility and relevance to the newresearch. Secondly, the article’s breakdown of how to write your own abstract for the works was very helpful as I personally do not have a lot of experience with creating annotated bibliographies or abstracts for research works. Lastly, Ifoundthe tip to read the works being annotated in chronological order to determine which research is original vs. derivativeof previous works to be very insightful. Doing so could benefit research when comparing/contrasting sources and explaining where specificideas originated from, as well as which works may have disproved the researchof others. – Gabriella
Being a Literature Pack Rat With Evernote
The answer to this problem is to hoard valuable literature like there is no tomorrow. My favorite tool for doing so is Evernote.
Evernote allows you to create notes that you can tag for keywords and place in customized notebooks. This allows you to annotate sources quickly and efficiently and to save all your annotations in one place. Evernote also works across all platforms, meaning you can access all your notes on your desktop, tablet, or mobile device, or even online from a public computer. Also: IT’S FREE.
As you can tell: I think Evernote is just about the greatest invention known to man ;-).
The Pro version, which is $60 per year, even allows you to import and annotate PDFs.
With the Google Chrome Evernote Web Clipper, you can even save entire webpages offline.
Now, whenever someone asks me something like the best way to optimize a mobile website, or what the top ten usability testing tools are, I can recall that information in seconds. More importantly: when I’m in the middle of a project and need to refamiliarize myself with a best practice, every single best practice I’ve ever encountered is available to me.
Regardless of whether you use a particular tool: if you want to be the best professional you can be, you need to hoard knowledge, and you use to manage this knowledge stockpile so that it is useful to you and others.
A few of the tips listed in this article that I personally use when researching are to read the abstract first, avoid plagiarism by taking notes in my own words, use an orderly system when taking notes, keep full record and info about my sources, and allow myself plenty of time to read through the research I need. I cannot tell you how much time I’ve saved myself by reading the abstract of a paper in order to determine whether or not it’s going to have the information I need. The author will highlight the main points of their paper in the abstract and that allows me to get a quick overview of the content. Using an orderly system and keeping track of my sources has also helped save me time while writing research papers. Most often my notes fit into the rough outline of my paper based on which section they fall under. And if I am using multiple sources I make sure that I keep track of which notes came from which source so that way I don’t have to wast time going back through papers, books, or other sources to find where I got a piece of information. While on the subject of how I organize my notes, I also find it helps me save time by already writing my notes in my own words so that when I’ve finished my paper I don’t need to worry about plagiarism because I already reworded my notes from the start. Of course while most of the tips I find the most useful help save time, nothing quite takes the stress and pressure off of me by starting an assignment early and giving myself plenty of time to get it done. This allows me to carefully read what I need to as well as have the time to write multiple drafts, ensuring I have an accurate and carefully written paper. – Rachael