Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. When you read about research, you are essentially trying to solve a mystery in that you want to know how something works or why something happened. For example, I like to read studies that differ how young adults and older adults experienced while traveling. If the research is conducted well, it can give me insight into something a young adult would like to read about versus an older adult regarding their next trip. By reading research articles, you want to answer the question that you or other people have about the world, which is the point of research.
There are two types of articles that individuals need to know about before investing in heavy reading:
- Professionals in a given field write academic articles. They are edited by the authors’ peers and often take years to publish. Their language is formal and will contain words and terms typical to the field. The author’s name will be present, as will their credentials. There will be a list of references that indicate where the author obtained the information s/he is using in the article.
- Non-Academic articles are written for the mass public. They are published quickly and can be written by anyone. Their language is informal, casual, and may contain slang. The author may not be provided and will not have any credentials listed. There will be no reference list. Non-Academic articles can be found in periodicals similar to Time, Newsweek, or Rolling Stone.
If you have attended any higher education form, you would have seen these articles defined and referenced on their library and college writing syllabus.
There are so many interesting resources out there, and something that you must consider is saturation; that is, do many articles list the same idea or message. Some people might read an article on young adult behaviors while traveling, which will support your ideas, but remember, there might be more articles stating the opposite of that one article. A review of the literature will really give you an idea of the many ideas a topic has, and you should know both sides to determine the validity of the articles you are reading.
You can find hundreds of websites that can lead you towards misleading facts. Also, you might come across surveys and “studies” that have graphs and charts. You really need to take a look at the data because when you look at the population split, you might, again, find an article on the experience of young adults versus older adults. After reading the article, you find that the researcher only interviewed one young adult but 30 older adults. In any research article with numbers, you will always find a validity and reliability section, which tells you how likely you are to trust that data. Remember, your article is only as good as the data you have to back things up.
Not all books, articles, websites, or other pieces of information possess credibility, which is the term used to describe the quality or value of the resources you use. For example, a brain surgery manual written by a biology researcher who has never conducted surgery would have less credibility than a manual written by an experienced brain surgeon.
Citing the work of others
Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes: it gives proper credit to the authors of the materials used. It allows those who are reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the sources you have listed as references. The MLA and the APA Styles are two popular citation formats.
Failure to cite your sources properly is plagiarism. Plagiarism is avoidable!
- Academic vs Non-Academic Articles | Mid Michigan College