Kairos 16.1 (Fall, 2011)

Now, let’s begin with some quotes from our interview responses to which Dr. Newmark referred …

We, as students and departing staff members, were interviewed at the end of the course. These interviews were used to find out how we had addressed the course goals. These interviews provided a gauge of just how far our knowledge and experiences of academic journals had changed after the course. From the interviews, our responses highlight the goals of the prerequisite courses to the “Publications Management” course, which focus on general media studies, as well as editing and fundamental document design principles. A basic awareness of web journals was present, but our experiences with those journals was limited.

The following quotes from our exit interviews are students’ own words of their prior knowledge of academic journals and the manner in which they interacted with these publications.

“Not very much.  Well, we’ve been looking at the IEEE journal, so I had some experience with that but as far as literature journals, I didn’t have much experience with that.”

“Just my working knowledge, having to use them for research projects.”

“I’ve done research before for Tech Writing and for work but that’s all; that was more technical kind of chemistry/ Engineering stuff, so that [was] basically entering what I wanted in a search engine that comes up with a list of things.  I’d never really looked at Kairos or anything like that until this class, so not much at all.”

“Very limited.  I had never really  – just doing research, it’s always out of necessity,  never really went into how it was acquired, how it got there, and then I used it.”

“Very little –- mostly with using scholarly journals for research.”

What these quotes reflect is a relationship with journals that is limited to the directives of teachers — that is, journals are often accessed only out of necessity and only to find the information that students already have a need for — not as a primary resource for gaining new knowledge. Also the underlying assumption is that there are two kinds of journals: “scientific” and “literature,” the literature journals being everything outside of the sciences and engineering fields. This is reflective of the academic culture in which these students are enmeshed. The engineering and science focus of our institution often caters to these students’ interests even in Humanities and Social Sciences courses. This means that courses which would often allow for a broad range of scholarly research topics often rest on justifying their existence by centering around the non-Humanities disciplines that students perceive as superior and familiar. From the following student exit interview quotes, we gain a sense that their views of all journals and of research as a whole was changed after the course. The class taught students not only how to participate in the creation of a journal, but also how that journal fits into a canon.  The quotes also reflect the new knowledge gained by the students as part of the production process of a journal, and an expanded view beyond the science and engineering-only types of research they had encountered.

“I have more respect for open journals – open access – a new appreciation for the work that goes into them.”

“I have a lot more respect for it – more than just some piece of regurgitated literature – how much more scholarly it is.  I appreciate the process a lot more, I guess, and how much research and time would go into something like that.”

“There’s a lot more use that I could get out of them, even with homework, I could look up – I could do a Science Direct search for whatever homework’s on – not for every assignment, but there’s more use than what I do now.”

“They are definitely more dynamic than I thought they were, how content gets shaped from the authors through the revision process for a specific journal.  I assumed it was more author-oriented.”

“There’s a lot of work that goes into them.  I always thought that since they are literature-based, that maybe the review process, the editing process, was a little bit easier, but I found out that that’s not true.”

Another assumption that is at work in these students’ comments is that journals emerge from a static place. The journal field seems to be a unilateral distribution of information that is not really subject to much criticism or concern. From classroom observation it was apparent that not only did we, the students in the course, have very limited experience using journals for research, but also we did not question the source or correctness of these materials. If a journal’s articles were not found in the top results produced by a quick search, all awareness of that journal was lacking. Furthermore, visiting websites of academic journals was a foreign concept to most of us who visited only search engines.

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