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Posts from the ‘Research’ Category

Organizing Your Research

BY: ERIN WALSH

Writing a dissertation requires managing hundreds of citations and sources. Careful organization will save you countless hours rummaging through your research, but the million dollar question many students ask is “how do I do that?”

To answer this question, we asked NCU students, faculty and alumni — via Facebook and LinkedIn — how they keep track of their research. Their recommendations: Mendeley, Zotero, EndNote, Evernote, and of course, RefWorks:

  • Mendeley organizes documents and references, suggests related research, shows readership statistics and allows collaboration with groups. The basic version is free, but premium features can be added for a cost.

“I have been using Mendeley… it is great for being able to access material from different devices such as my iPad.” Denise Parker (Ed.D., Educational Technology & E-Learning, candidate)

“I use Mendeley as my main repository for articles and citations…I find that this is the perfect way to keep track of my materials.” Alan Jackson (D.B.A., candidate)

  • Zotero is available as a Firefox plugin or as a standalone application. By creating an account, you are able to sync your research information with other computers and an online library that is accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. Zotero is capable of identifying bibliographic information on web pages and, with a click, automatically saves it.  In many cases, Zotero will automatically capture citation information.  Items saved in your library are searchable. You can identify duplicates and insert citations directly into your research paper using a word processor plugin. There is a $20/year charge for 2G of server-based storage, but up to 300MB of storage is free.

“Zotero.” Susan Stillman, Ed.D. (NCU faculty)

  • EndNote groups citations into libraries with the file extension *.enl and a corresponding *.data folder. Access to certain searchable library catalogs and free databases are included in the software. EndNote offers automatic citation formatting with a list of 2,000 different styles. You can purchase EndNote for $113.95.

 “I’m a big fan of EndNote. It allows for organization and filtering by name of the author, title, year, etc. It allows you to take notes right through the program or you can attach your own notes to each article. For each reference I pull in I attach the PDF file, a notes page and a bibliography at the minimum.” Christopher Boulter (Ph.D., Psychology, candidate)

  • Evernote allows students and researchers to collect information from anywhere and save it in one single place: from notes, web clips, files, images and more, on any device. They offer MAC and Windows versions. Evernote offers free and premium accounts.

“I used and continue to use Evernote. Great for annotated bibliographies that are easily searchable – and by always using proper APA format, I only have to type the full citation once. The other times are just copy and paste.” Wayne Perry, Ph.D. (Director of Clinical Training, School of Marriage and Family Sciences, NCU)

“I tried EndNote and just didn’t find it to be a good fit for me (no specific issues, just felt a bit too structured). I ended up keeping references and notes in Evernote, which I could use from anywhere including on my phone and iPad. I saved PDFs into a system of folders set up by topic, and often used the Spotlight search feature on my Mac to search within these for authors or keywords.” Russell Walker (Ph.D., Business Administration, 2012)

  • RefWorks is a research management, writing and collaboration tool offered through the NCU Library’s institutional subscription. NCU began offering RefWorks in 2009. Workshops and tutorials on RefWorks may be accessed from the Library Workshop Videos or Quick Tutorial Videos pages.  Or, check for the availability of live training on RefWorks by visiting the Library Workshops Schedule page.

“RefWorks is a good tool for organizing research within the Library and is commonly available among databases making it easy to export citations directly into a RefWorks account. Within RefWorks you can organize citations into folders for easy reference and quickly produce an APA formatted reference list as well as create in-text citations within a document. Although we highly recommend students still consult the APA manual for confirmation.” Ed Salazar, M.A. (NCU Librarian)

 “When I wrote my dissertation, I used RefWorks. While there is a learning curve, it also provides the greatest amount of flexibility in the longer term. However, today I generally use Zotero for scholarly/academic work. While there is a free version, it is worth the $20 per year charge for the security of having a cloud-based backup of your reference database and notes.” Frank Cervone (Ph.D., Business Administration, 2007)

“RefWorks has developed a tool called Write-N-Cite, which not only converts Word’s XML file and synchronizes it to the online references, but allows in-text citation and reference list building in APA 6th ed. format. I highly recommend Write-N-Cite, because then your citation database isn’t limited to your device. There are drawbacks with this setup, as you must edit and organize your citations through RefWorks online.” David Czuba (Ed.D., Leadership in Higher Education, candidate)

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

Accreditation 101: Regional vs. National

The U.S. Department of Education states that “the goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” That sounds great, but how do you know which accreditation – regional or national – is best? Honestly, it’s not a question of which accreditation is best, but which accreditation best suits your needs.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional ground campus experience or searching for the right online program to give you the flexibility you need for your busy schedule, understanding accreditation and how it can impact your future is a must. Take a few minutes to expand your knowledge and become well-prepared for the great college search.

What is accreditation?

Let’s start with the basics. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to accredit is “to recognize [an educational institution] as maintaining standards that qualify the graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional practice.” Applying for accreditation from any organization is completely voluntary, which means that by choosing an accredited school, you’re choosing a school whose curriculum has been evaluated by peers in academia to ensure a quality learning experience.

In the United States, there are two kinds of institutional accreditation – regional and national.

What is regional accreditation?

Regional accreditation is granted to each institution by one of six organizations that focus mainly on academia and research-related areas of study.  Each organization focuses on a specific region in the United States, hence the name regional accreditation.

What is national accreditation?

National accreditation is granted by independent organizations that focus largely on career-oriented areas of study. Each organization focuses on accrediting schools that align with their organizational goals, no matter where they may be, rather than focusing on a geographical location.

Which is best for me?

For those still struggling to make sure they’re taking the right path, take a moment to really evaluate your future goals. As you do so, keep the following advice in mind.

  • If you’re planning on transferring credits to another school or pursuing further education in the future, your best bet is to stick with a regionally accredited institution.
  • If you’re looking for a trade-specific skill set that will serve as your last degree or as an addition to a degree you’ve already completed, a nationally accredited institution might be right for you.

5 Proven Study Techniques

BY ERIN WALSH

Recite the states in the United States alphabetically, list all the presidents of the U.S. from George Washington to the occupant of the White House (when you were in grade school), and share the date of the battles of Lexington and Concord.

For most of us, of our early education consisted of memory assignments. Personally, I never forgot the mnemonic “my very educated mother just served us nine pickles” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto – alas poor Pluto has since been demoted from planet status).

Why? Because according to common belief, memorizing and repeating information leads to greater learning outcomes. But, it turns out that many studies, dating as far back as 1890 (that would be President Benjamin Harrison), refute this. What else has been proven not to work? Re-reading, highlighting, and our favorite, funny mnemonics.

Henry L. Roediger published an article in the Association for Psychological Science in the Public Interest entitled “Applying Cognitive Psychology to Education: Translational Educational Science,” which points out that, contrary to these studies, the practices listed above continue to be quite common.

So what has science proven really works? According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and Dr. Rebecca Adams, associate director of faculty training at NCU, there are five proven study techniques:

1. Distributed Practice is the opposite of cramming for a test. Shorter and diverse study sessions – covering several topics that are distributed over a period of time, are more successful.

2. Retrieval Practice or Testing focuses on taking practice tests. By testing yourself, you practice retrieving information that is kept in an accessible state in your brain.

3. Interleaved Practice is a form of studying that mixes up different kinds of problems or materials in one study session. Multiple associations may be formed within a single study session that can then be recalled by a variety of cues. And, because the study tasks change frequently, studying this way is more engaging and less boring.

4. Elaborative Interrogation isn’t a technique from a Law & Order episode. The technique works by explaining why a fact or concept is true. This helps students make a connection between the new information they are learning and information they have previously learned. It is a strategy that works particularly well when comprehension is the focus, and students have pre-existing knowledge of the topic.

5. Self-explanation encourages students to explain how new information is related to known information, or to verbally explain the steps followed when solving a problem.

6 Questions to Ask About Your Dissertation Topic

Picking a dissertation topic is a BIG Decision. “You will spend a great deal of time reading, researching, thinking, writing and talking about your dissertation topic,” says Dr. Heather Frederick.

“To pick a topic that you are only vaguely interested in is like marrying someone you only kind of like.” Additionally, picking a topic that is too close to home (for example, the impact of divorce while going through a divorce) can make it very difficult for you to maintain a scholarly voice. Dr. Frederick’s advice – “Just don’t do it!”

Your initial dissertation idea(s) may change as you begin conducting your literature review and writing your concept paper. However, you should be able to answer yes to these six questions:

1. Am I passionate about this topic?
2. Do I enjoy talking about this topic with others?
3. Do I really want to become an expert in this area?
4. Can I study this and still be interested in it a year from now?
5. Can I study this area from an objective standpoint?
6. Am I objective about this topic in general?

If you have answered yes to all six questions, then you may have a winner!

What’s next? Read as much as you can about your general research area. Ideas for dissertation research do not materialize out of thin air. Rather, a good idea will come after you have conducted a fair amount of reading in an area and then thought about the next logical step in a sequence of research.

Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Higher Degrees.

Tips on Getting Published in Academic Journals

While many of us use academic journals as resources for information, for an elite group of scholars, they serve as a platform for showcasing research and discovery. Planning to pursue a career in academia or climb the ranks of the professional world? Getting published in an academic journal could be a catalyst for growth in whatever career you choose.

If you’re tossing around the idea of submitting an article for the first time, take a few minutes to browse the suggestions below before you hit send.

Do the Research
The ultimate goal is to make a significant contribution to your academic arena, so find the academic journal that will best play host to your ideas. If you completed research on space travel, you wouldn’t submit your article to a journal about prehistoric animals, would you? Try browsing the databases you have become so familiar with throughout your academic career to find the best fit for your work.

Be Conscious of the Requirements
Like any publication, academic journals have an expected standard for submission. Becoming well-versed on the requirements before submitting your work gives you a better chance of getting published. Many journals, such as the American Educational Research Journal – a publication available through NCU’s library – even provide a Submission Preparation Checklist to follow.

Get Feedback Before You Submit
Have someone you trust proofread and suggest changes before you submit your final work. A fresh set of eyes can provide a new perspective and suggestions for positive change. Whether it’s the spelling error you missed after staring at your computer screen for fifteen hours, or a complete overhaul of the first paragraph, change can be good!

Don’t Get Frustrated With Rejection
For every article you see in an academic journal, there were probably thousands that were submitted for review. Don’t take it personally if you’re rejected a few times. Use the opportunity to refine your work or do a little more research to find a more appropriate platform for your ideas.

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