Archive for April 16, 2008

“Desperate for Relevant Journal Articles!”

My Minnesota friend Erik came to talk to about 25 of the English teachers and some of the librarians yesterday.  He focused his talk about his own research concerning Kazakh proverbs while living in Kazakhstan since 1995 and more recently he has been writing his doctoral dissertation.  Thus, the title of Erik’s talk showed the limited material found in Kazakhstan and his attempt to find credible, scholarly articles having to do with Kazakh proverbs.

Erik first showed the importance of having a good bibliography by giving examples and reasons.  First of all, the last page of ANY research paper shows you have done your homework with good keyword searches.  Second, a bibliography helps you and others with future research if tracking on a similar topic.  Finally, it provides opportunities for networking with like-minded individuals.  Erik gave an example of seeing someone’s name (Gibbs) pop up over and over again in several journal articles that were of interest to him.  In several cases, Erik has gone directly to different scholars’ websites and contacted him or her to get more information from them.  In a community of true scholars, it is part of “good faith” to share material with fellow researchers.

Amanat” is entrusted to Kazakh researchers in the social sciences which was mentioned by Erik.  These fortunate few are endowed with the high responsibility to show their background work in research and their bibliographies.  Those given the “Amanat” title are obligated to show the history of their reasoning in order to provide a legacy for future Kazakh researchers.  Otherwise, if a sufficient or accurate bibliography is NOT shown, others are forced to “reinvent the wheel” in the future.  Erik emphasized that if bibliographies are properly shown, then future researchers who build their papers don’t have to reinvent some of the same sources but rather expand on what has already been established.

Erik used an appropriate quote which comes from a 1676 letter written by Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”  Newton essentially was successful because of the prior work done by those scholars who had gone before him because they had documented it for him to check out.  So too in Kazakhstan, articles published about this land can expand and grow if the body of literature is enlarged by other Kazakh scholars helping each other with information gathering.

Erik also said that baseline level information searches can happen with a simple Google search or even with Google Scholar.  Also, other discipline specific search engines may help but it is easy to get lost in the forest of all the information that shows up in Internet dictionaries and encyclopedias.  Besides that, it is not considered legitimate work that has been fact checked.  Whatever is on the Internet could be here today but gone tomorrow.  Usually it is not credible and also not reliable.  Good, honest research demands those two elements if it is to stand up to the test of time.  Erik further explained that is why academic, peer reviewed scholarly journals give you the particular trees you are looking for rather than getting lost and wandering around in the forest. 

Erik had illuminating examples on the screen from EBSCOhost even though he has been very familiar with the same keyword search techniques by using J-Stor this last year.  He introduced what Boolean searches were with simply using AND (essentially done for you with an “Advanced Search”) He showed a Vinn diagram with “proverbs” in one circle intersecting with another circle with “animals.” What showed in the middle section is the refinement of information you want to get to.  Erik claims to have saved about $3,000 by not having to pay for journal articles but by using J-Stor’s electronic, journal articles.  Erik also explained the need for various limiters and keywords such as when he just typed in the word “proverbs” he got 2,665 articles.  However, when he typed in “Proverbs” AND “meaning” or when he typed “Proverbs” AND “intergenerational,” he got far fewer articles but more specific to his chosen topic.

I hope the teachers appreciated Erik’s helpful tips on keyword searches with electronic databases but I was most impressed with the Kazakh folktale book he and his wife authored which he gave to each person who attended this “Teacher-Researcher Workshop.”  He emphasized that it did NOT have a bibliography at the back because it was not considered a scholarly book but a record of folktales which is considered public domain.

The challenge remains for each English teacher who teaches writing to their Kazakhstani students, they must teach their students how to search wisely, document with their working bibliography, read the articles, and finally write their paper in the required format of APA style.  Much to learn about the PROCESS of writing but I think our students are up to the task, they have been given the charge by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan to work diligently and study hard.  To my mind, that means to write about Kazakhstan despite the dearth of information about this country simply by using the plethora of journal articles that are already written and housed in the electronic databases.  Eventually, Kazakh students will not be as desperate as Erik had been before he started using electronic databases of necessity to find relevant journal articles.

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