My last blog related to the Leap into Research training that I had recently attended ad this is now the second part of that. For me, the training I discuss (below) was the most relevant and to be very honest, I probably would have benefited from hearing this 6 months ago so I would strongly advise any research student attending training in these areas.
Firstly, we were given a briefing on Open Access – what it is and why it is important. This was done by our Library and Information Services Team and is a really important topic for anyone in research. First of all, we learned what Open Access means and in a nutshell, it means being accessible to all. This means that Open Access research would be publically available, encoring more people to look at it, download it and cite it. There are two main types of open access when submitting to a journal:
- Green – this is where you submit to a journal and you have the option to make your article open access. In my case, it would mean depositing my research outputs into Edinburgh Napier’s research repository where it can then be accessed (we also had a session on how to do this).
- Gold – this involves an article processing fee but the article is then made publically available as part of this.
Open Access is important as it encourages the sharing of information and research. Moreover, it helps to prevent articles being hidden away and not accessed if high journal-subscription fees mean that no one will buy it. It is important to look at each journal’s open access policy when deciding on submission as some will differ depending on what their requirements are. This will also influence your ability to share your own, whether it be sending it to an external party of a friend – you need to be aware of what you can or cannot do. You will also find that to be counted towards REF, the journals counted will need to be available open access too.
Linking in with open access, we had a panel discussion on ‘Impact’ to end our first day. The panel members discussed how their research had developed and if they felt their research had impact. It was quite an impressive panel to be honest. From the panel discussions, some points are highlighted below:
- The research relationship is important in impact. Send emails and get to know others so your research can be shared amongst the community.
- Look for appropriate opportunities to network and get to know others. This will help you to meet others in and outside of your field to help increase the dissemination of your work.
- Impact does not necessarily need to be on society. Impact might be seen in organisations or elsewhere, not society as a whole (although societal impact is important to consider).
- When starting a research project, you should have a fair idea of where your research might impact (this is often required for funding and proposals). However, this is often discussed in terms of contributions too and what the research will develop.
- You can’t always plan for impact as research takes twists and turns. You may hit an unexpected bump in the road. Discoveries are normally made on this unexpected journey and this can lead to impact but you should have some awareness of where impact might come from within the research.
Our panel were able to share personal experience of their research work and explain what mattered to them. We were given good advice on planning and preparation (which had been discussed in previous sessions) and we were able to see what outputs of research really looked like in disciplines other than mine.
One of the things I was not aware of where the different apps available to researchers. During another session, the library and information services team explored the different types of app available and the purpose. Reasons for using apps covered topics of collaboration (to help share information and research), analysis (to help analyse data for example), organisation (to organise research, such as that online calendar we all have), and exploration (such as searching literature like I do) and also to help collect data. It’s quite amazing to see how many I use already without knowing I did and also to understand that I would be totally lost without my little handheld gadget known as my phone (which also contains my whole life apparently).
Altmetrics and Bibliometrics
We had two important sessions on the final day, one focusing on Almetrics and social media and the other on citation counting.
Altmetrics is the measurement of impact on web-based activity, so things like blogs and social media for example. This can include things like presentations, datasets, twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles and much more. The aim of Altmetrics is to offer an alternative to bibliometrics and give a full picture of research dissemination and impact. This also helps the research to reach a diverse audience, particular those who do not work in the field of your research. Our presenters used the example of Impact Story which collates information on publications disseminated by web-based means. I do believe that there is a charge for signing up, but there is a free trial to Impact Story so you can see how it tracks different outputs of research and explores dissemination practice of the research. Researchers can also use Altmetrics posted on journal home pages that demonstrate where the journal and journal articles are being linked to and what is the best source of dissemination for that journal.
Bibliometrics (on the other hand) is the statistical analysis of books, journals etc so that a citation count can be created. Key tools to help with this are:
- Web of science
- Google Scholar
- Elsevier journal metrics
Quite often, the H-index is calculated. This is basically a calculation of ‘X’ amount of publication being cited ‘X’ amount of times. The H-index is not increased by papers that have been cited a large amount of times so it is not skewed by individual papers. However, it can be skewed by the age of the individuals (as it takes data from over the lifetime so your H-index will grow as you do) and it is often only useful when compared with others in your discipline. Sometimes the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is calculated. This is an indication of how many times the journal has been cited so the higher the number the more impact it has.
In a separate session we discussed how to create an online presence, which links in well with the Altmetrics. You could set up a research blog just like me and this will allow people to see the outputs of your research instantly. It also encourages people to read the blog who are not necessarily part of that subject area. Making a blog easy to read means that anyone who can access it can read it, so sharing the blog post on things like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook might help to disseminate the research a little further.
One of the most important sessions to me was the ‘Research and the literature review’, first thing Friday morning. I was a little sceptical that this would be a bit skimmed over but it was great! We were taught what a good literature review was and what a bad literature review consisted of and the suggestions are below:
- A critical evaluation
- Synthesis of available information
- Broad and deep, but clear and concise
- Rigorous and consistent (and stating search terms).
- Regurgitation of text or summary of text
- An essay
- Confined to description
- Narrow or shallow in discussion
We also head about a recent research study that actually evaluated feedback form PhD students on what they had trouble with during the PhD literature review. These are what the authors found in terms of questions asked by students:
- When do I stop looking? Problems with knowing when enough is enough.
- What to read first?
- What is I miss a key paper?
- How do I organise my literature review into themes?
- I can’t access the journals I want. What do I do?
To address the issues, our presenter (one of the subject librarians at Edinburgh Napier, Sheena) gave some fabulous advice. She advised that we begin our search in various ways and use many sources: google scholar, academic databases, library catalogues, theses / dissertations, government documents, social media, professional networks and so on as these can lead to all sorts of information being searched. She also advised that we plan out our search which is something that I had never heard of. You could plan out what search terms you will use (including words which are similar), plan out where you will search and even factor in the time it will take to search. Again I had never heard of this approach until the training and will be adopting it from now on. We were told about search terms and their used, so for example the use of ‘AND’ to include all search terms and ‘OR’ to include at least one of the search terms. I briefly knew this and about the symbols used, but it was nice to have someone clarify this for me own search. Sheena then advised that we get some referencing software. Not only is this important for referencing the work, but it helps to categorise searchers and you can even use the software to highlight important works within the literature (again something I did not know).
You can also set up alerts on RSS feeds and journals so that you are notified of new publications that are available. We learned how to do this in a workshop and I found it helpful to know how easy it is.
It was suggested that we begin reading with recent review papers as these will give an overview of the work done and then move onto good quality journal papers. Sheena advised using our search criteria to narrow down what we thought was important and not as well as checking citation counts to see who had used the publication and which ones may not have been used as much.
We also explored how we read journal articles, with discussions leading to the following advice:
- Some people scan the journal to see what is important then return to it later.
- You should consider your own view – is it different to the authors?
- Consider what you already know about methods and the topic.
- You should evaluate as you read.
- You could use tables to record your literature, main themes which could help with coding literature if you feel this is suitable.
- The evaluation should look for: themes, common ground, differences, controversy (in the article), gaps, more literature and joining the dots with other articles.
For writing, you need to explain what you are covering and your search terms. I chuckled a little as I have been told this about my writing numerous times. You need to give the scope of your research field and also establish the position you are writing from. The story of themes will then indicate where the gap in the literature lies and tie in with the research questions to be addressed. Your writing will be revisited and revised over again, don’t be afraid to edit things that you feel are not right as the final draft is not submitted until the whole thing is done. To focus on writing you may need your own personal techniques to focus (such as being in a quiet room, getting coffee etc). Snack writing is an approach often used by individuals who need to fit writing into a hectic schedule. It means that there is dedicated writing time so no other distractions are present and you don’t need to write for lengthy periods of time for the words to build up.
It is also really important to get feedback on your writing so you can improve. Feedback is not always criticism, but improvements to your writing so that you can make it better. Getting feedback form peers or supervisors will help you tailor the writing style you desire.
So that is it. Leap into Research (I feel) was a success for me. Not only because it delivered training sessions on areas of research that are important to me, but because I have now learned a new way of literature reviewing that I will be using from now on.