Education Library Research Skills for the Capstone Part I - Identifying a Doctoral Research Topic & Organizational Tools
Speaker: Okay, great. Welcome, everybody, to the Education Research Skills for the Doctoral Capstone. This is the first of four sessions. Tonight, we will talk about how to choose a doctoral level topic and a little bit about organization. Mainly, when we talk about finding a topic, we want you to be able to find a dissertation topic for you that you'll be able to complete your capstone with.
We're going to talk about journals in the field of education, how to set up journal alerts, and ways to organize and retrieve your research. What good is your research if you can't find what you're looking for? I'm going to go ahead and pass this over to Anne.
Anne: I'm going to cover some background information because finding a topic can be a real challenge. Often times, students approach this task inductively. Apart from the project study, you really don't want to start with a problem. You want to start by looking through the literature. If you're doing a PhD or EdD [No audio.]
Then the topic is not a viable dissertation topic. For EdD students doing a project study, where the requirement is to show a gap in practice at the local level, you can show this through gap through board meetings or news stories. If you have a passion or see a problem in your local area that you want to solve, this can be a good approach. You're still going to need to find empirical literature on how to fix that problem. You will also need to explore the research literature.
The literature is going to give context to the local problem if it's a project study. We know that many of you have passions about specific issues or topics. They don't always lend themselves to a doctoral study. You want a gap to demonstrate your niche. You want to find your place in the conversation to complete your study and your degree.
A good study is grounded in the literature, not just from personal experience. Walden does have a litmus test to determine if you have determined a doctoral level research problem. Kim will put the link to this in the chat box. You want to determine if it's justified. You have to make sure it's significant beyond your own environment. The second thing is is it grounded in literature? Can the problem be built upon or counter previously published findings?
It has to be an original contribution. It also has to be amenable to scientific study. Can the scholarly method of inquiry be applied to the topic? You need to know what's being research and published in your field. Staying current in the literature will give you a broader view of your field. You can figure out where your gap is.
You want to start building a personal library of research. You can save useful course readings. You can also find seminal works through course readings. You want to be reading at least one research study per week in your area of interest. This will help you start your search. You want to search broadly. You're allowing the literature to lead the way. It may not take you where you expected, but it will show you where the research is and you'll be able to complete your dissertation in a more timely manner.
As a proviso, I like to tell people that inflexibility in your topic may lead to graduation delays. The exploration of the research on your general area of interest is where you can start to formulate ideas for your study. You want to look at limitations and recommendations for future research. Often times people will find something tangential that's very interesting to them and they will put that in their research article. Sometimes people will find their dissertation topic when they run across something like that.
This is providing evidence of a gap. The literature review is really the backbone of your study. By getting to know the literature around your topic, it's going to help you formulate your study based on the current literature. That's going to give you a stronger study. Another thing you want to explore is trade publications and professional organizations and activities.
Your literature review will be based on peer-reviewed literature. Trade publications and professional organizations can also provide you with great information. You can find out about new laws and policies happening in your topic area or state, you can also get background information including government reports. A lot of times those will be in trade publications. Advertisements for upcoming events including conventions can show you emerging trends.
You can look at the agendas to see what they're addressing. You can read blogs or sign up for listservs. This is your basic background information about finding a workable topic. As Kim said, if you have questions, you can always make an appointment or email one of us. It's hard to do this at home, by yourself. We're here to help so don't be shy. It's okay to ask questions along the way. I'm going to turn it over to Kim for more specific, practical information.
Kim: Could you explain what you mean when you say that trade publications and professional organizations writings are not empirical?
Anne: A lot of times you're looking at newsy things for practitioners. It's two different types of writing. Two different fonts of information. You're looking at empirical research in peer reviewed journals where people are doing research studies. In trade publications you'll see trends, popular topics of conversation, and find out what's happening in the profession. It's not necessarily research activity.
Kim: Let's talk about journal alerts. You want to know what's going on in your field and what is being researched. Journal alerts are a great way to stay current in the literature. You set up an alert with a publisher. They will email you the table of contents and a brief abstract for each article. These may not be related to your topic, but they will represent the current conversation in your field.
You will need to demonstrate that knowledge of the current research in your subject area and how your study will contribute to the conversation. That's why it's important to know what's being published and by who. While you're building your personal library and searching for resources, keep track of journals you see popping up. You can set up an alert for a specific journal or search for journals by topic.
I'm going to show you how we can do that from the library website. Let's say you have a journal you've seen a lot and want an alert for it. From the library website, if you go to the publications link, the first page you will see the top box that says "find journals." You can type in the title of the journal and search. Here we have the result list.
The first two are very similar. There's just a few words that are a little different. That's quite common with journals. A lot of them have very similar names. You want to make sure you're looking at the correct journal. To set up an alert, we want to go into the database. We're going to click on the full text access link underneath. There's a list of databases here. Our search engine found this journal in all four of these databases.
We can choose any of these. I'm going to click on the first one. This will pull up the database in ProQuest. Here's the information about the journal. I can see here if I click on "show all", it's a scholarly journal. I also see there's a place to create an alert. I get this pop up screen and I can say if I want it only when there's full text available or when the citation and abstract is available. You want to check this off.
If you ever find an article you don't have access to, you can always email it to the Walden library and we will see if we can get it for you in a different way. Then you want to put in your email. Say how long you'd like to have it. ProQuest will send you an email that you will need to confirm with. Every time this journal is about to publish a new publication, they will send you a table of contents.
You will also get an email once the alert is about to run out and you can extend or cancel it. Let's say you don't have a specific journal in mind. You can go to the Education Research Page. I'm at the Walden library website. I'm going to click the on "research by subject" button. We're going to go to education. This is the education research page.
This is sort of the jumping off point for doing research in the field of education in the Walden library. If you scroll down to journals, you will see we already have a number of different journals highlighted here. We have some that we recommend, higher education, and so forth. Let's say you're in special education. I get a list of all the peer-reviewed education journals for special education.
If there's one I'm interested in, I can set up another alert. They're listed alphabetically. We can click on "full text" and we see there are two databases. The first one is a nursing database. They have this journal from 2004-the present. The full text delay is one year. The publisher has put a one year embargo on the articles they're publishing.
It's really about money. They're making more money with paying clients rather than libraries. The most current article we could get would be from March of 2019. Walden library has access to a database called Tayler & Frances, so we want to use this database for a journal alert.
All of these have the same functionality, it just looks different. If you need an alert and can't figure it out, just email us. I will show you how. On the first page of Taylor and Frances, there's a link for new content alerts. This will ask me to sign in, that's pretty common. To set up a journal alert, I need to make an account. It's not an account with the library. It's free to do.
You can sign in and make an account. If you don't have one, you can register here. I have one, so I log in. If I scroll down, you will see that journal has been added to my alerts. I will get an alert every time a new issue is published. I want to go through those steps one more time with a different database. Let's go into higher education journals.
When you access journals this way, they will all be peer-reviewed journals that we have picked out for you. Let's go to Active Learning in Higher Education. I will click on SAGE Premier. It brings me to the journal. I can search through different issues. I have to click on the journal title. In SAGE, you have to scroll down to the "connect with us" box at the bottom. You can sign up and receive alerts.
I have an account, so it automatically signed me in. It's asking me if I want new content or announcements, and I want both. I'm going to add this to my alerts and it will ask me to sign in. You'll see that it's here in my alerts. That's an easy way to stay on top of the literature in your field. Another resource that Anne and I have put together are some RSS feeds on the Education Research Page. Anne will put that link in the chat.
Anne: I will do that. I put the link to the journal alerts as well.
Kim: Great, thanks so much. On the Education Research Page, if you scroll down under Research Help, there's a link for the literature review. You can click on "learn more about the literature review process in education." You will see on the lefthand side there's a link to RSS feeds. We have set them up for different articles in different programs.
For instance, we have leadership articles. These are all from March of this year. There's recent curriculum and assessment, higher education, and even social change in education. We know that's an important part of Walden. We also have a link to recent early childhood education articles. Those are just a couple ways for you to stay on top of the research in your field. Does anybody have any questions about any of those?
Anne: We have had nothing come through.
Kim: In the library you will see a banner across the top. If you ever need help, just click on here and email us. It usually only takes us a few hours to get back to you, unless the library is closed. The next thing I want to talk about is organization. It's essential as you work from start to finish on your capstone. The sooner you start, the better it will be for you in the long run.
It will allow you to see where you've been and help you easily find resources you've collected. Staying organized will provide a concise overview of the research you have located. It's going to help you group your thoughts and ideas. As you're writing, it will help you synthesize. You also need to explain how you conducted your research. This isn't a large part of your dissertation, but you do need to share it. You need to share databases and keywords you use so others can pick up where you left off on your research.
I'm going to do a demonstration for you again. I want to talk about some search blogs we have. Anne is going to paste the link to them in the chat. We have two different types of search logs. The first is a Word doc. You can set this up any way you want. It helps keep track and see where you found good research. We also have an Excel spreadsheet. I really like this one.
This was developed by an EdD student. She said I could share this with other students. She set up sections for each database. What she would do is do a search, put in the date range, the limiters, the number of items she got, and then she would do a similar search in a different database and get different results. Now she knows she gets better results when searching for articles that deal with [Inaudible] than she does in ScienceDirect.
You can put another search in here and see which databases will find the best articles for you for different concepts you're searching. This spreadsheet has additional sheets here. This is one for comments on the progress. There's also a list of journals. If you see the same journals popping up, set up those journal alerts. You guys are already paying for a subscription to these journals. You might as well get them sent directly to you.
There's a place for questions for the librarian. When you make your appointment with us, you'll be ready to go. The next thing I want to show you is something we have on citation management software. I will get there through the "Get help" link and then "library skills guides." Citation management software is just software you can use to organize your references. You can organize them any way you want.
It also helps you create in-text citations, generate a reference list, it's cool all the things it can do. The problem is that we don't have any agreements with any software companies. We don't endorse any to you. We do have information about a couple of them. There's a link here to a webinar. It's an hour long but well worth it. Pretty much everything I know about citation management software I know from this webinar.
We also have two more webinars, one on Mendeley and one on Zotaro. Everyone has different needs so you will need to determine which you need on your own. In summary, remember research is strategic exploration. If you're not finding what you're looking for, step back and broaden your topic. Don't be afraid to go where the research takes you. You can't do a dissertation unless it's grounded in the literature. Be flexible and have an open mind.
Be flexible and see what the current conversation is about. We understand that everyone has a passion and that's great. We want you to work on a dissertation that you're passionate about. If the literature isn't there, you won't be able to succeed. When you have the Dr. in front of your name, then go solve the passion problem. That brings us to the end of the first session in our education capstone webinars.
Anne and I are sharing our emails with you. All of the links we have shared will be in the follow up email, as well as a recording of this webinar. Our next session is in two weeks. This will be on search strategies. We will show you how to generate keywords, to search comprehensively, and how you focus to get articles you can use now. You can register for that webinar from the library website if you go to upcoming webinars and click on "all upcoming webinars."
It's listed in here. Maybe we can stop recording and we will stay and answer some questions.
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