MSRE Week 7–Tackling Journal Articles
This week, two McNair Scholars touch on one of the key skills scholars hone while doing summer research: learning how to approach, read, and analyze journal articles. Many students may have come into contact with journal articles for classes, but likely have not spent a great deal of time searching for, compiling, and analyzing the content of articles for the purpose of original research. This skill, which all McNair Scholars use as they work on their research project, will undoubtedly be vital as they continue their time as undergraduates and eventually move on to graduate study.
Brittany Sznajder-Murray, a Child, Youth & Family Studies major has been paying particular attention to the way journal articles are organized. As she explained, “I never used to pay much attention to the structure of the paper, but now I notice the structural differences of different research articles.” Paying attention to the “road signs” and structure of research papers is necessary to understand complex articles concerning new topics. Skills such as knowing how to actively and critically read a research article are integral to students ability to successfully conduct and write original research.
Sometimes a difficult aspect of reading journal articles is being overwhelmed by a wealth of information that seems impossible to understand. As Computer Science major Mike Gubbels put it, “I was somewhat disturbed by the notion of reading a paper without understanding every last detail, since this contradicts the approach I’ve learned to take when reading for classes.” This is something every student and academic has likely experienced and demonstrates how, as a scholar, one must prioritize the information they need to know, along with understanding their limits. Mike acknowleged that the act of familiarizing himself with complex and sometimes foreign topics surrounding his research ultimately “allowed me to feel more comfortable when I realized what I do not know.” This too, is important. As budding academics, or even as distinguished professors, there will always be new, unknown information for scholars to strive to understand–the life of an academic!