Changing the Way Students Perform Online Research

Changing the Way Students Perform Online Research

 

Google and other search engines have changed the way people locate information.  The problem is that online students think of Google as a proper tool to use to perform research for assignments.  Google Scholar may provide access to some scholarly research.  However, most online schools prefer that students use the school’s library search feature.  It is important that students consider the reliability of the type of content that is available on traditional websites.

Pew reported that the majority of students are not able to recognize bias in online content.  This has become frustrating for professors because these skills should be taught in first-year college courses.  Turnitin’s white paper titled What’s Wrong with Wikipedia, reported that in over 37 million papers submitted by students, there were 156 million matches to content found from the Internet.  This means that students use sites like Google Books, May Clinic, Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, etc.  These are unacceptable sources to use for college-level courses.

According to Turnitin’s research, the following problems exist with student’s research behavior:

  • Problem: Students value immediacy over quality – Students use sites like Wikipedia to find quick answers.  Wikipedia may offer some valuable resources at the bottom of their site to support the content. Solution:  These sources are usually available through the school’s library search feature.  Schools’ search engines are quite easy to use. They access some of the best material available for free.  Students can easily mark a box for peer-reviewed studies.  This will ensure that their research contains quality information.
  • Problem:  Students often use cheat sites – Students may find sites that offer to write their papers for a fee.  Most of these papers are captured within Turnitin’s plagiarism detecting software. Therefore when students buy the paper and submit as their own, the software will detect it as plagiarized.  Solution:  The time it takes to find and buy a paper on the Internet could have been used to simply write an original paper.  Nothing is gained from submitted plagiarized work.  Students risk getting expelled.  Most assignments are not that long or difficult.  The point of writing them is to gain knowledge.  Students who attend school just to obtain a piece of paper will not be prepared for the working world.  They will spend money on a degree that will not help them if they have not learned the information.
  • Problem:  Research is not synonymous with search – Students may put a lot of faith in the information found on the Internet.  Just because a site allows people to ask and answer questions, does not mean that the answers are correct. Searching for answers on the Internet does not mean that the answers are based on actual research.  Solution:  Using peer-reviewed sources that are available through the school’s library ensures that the information in the article has been reviewed by the author’s peers.  These studies are actual research.

There are times when assignments allow for students to use websites like Apple.com, or other corporate or news sites.  If this is allowed by the instructor, students must be able to recognize if the site is highly regarded. An example might be The New York Times.  If students are in doubt, they should direct questions to their instructor for guidance.

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Marketers Use Retina-Tracking and Facial-Scanning Devices

 

The latest technological advances have allowed for marketers to perform experiments that used to be the things only considered in science fiction.   Shoppers may soon have their retinas and facial expressions scanned to determine their product preferences.  Although these scans are not available on the grocery store shelf, they have been used in product research.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Kimberly-Clark’s researchers used computer screens outfitted with retina-tracking cameras when testing the newest packaging for its Viva paper towels in 2009. Their goal was to find which designs got noticed in the first 10 seconds a shopper looked at a shelf—a crucial window when products are recognized and placed in the shopping cart. They also wanted to know if the preferences held up on different count packages, from single rolls to multipacks.”

Researchers have found that they may obtain more accurate data this way than through the use of traditional surveys.  The retina-tracking devices are useful because the human eye can detect information very quickly.  It’s not just our eyes that can give marketers important information.  Some companies have used brain scans to determine product preferences.  Now with facial recognition software, even more customer data can be compiled as companies can “track involuntary facial expressions to gauge true emotional reaction.”

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What is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  My professor told me I have to cite using scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.  What does that mean?

College students are often asked to include scholarly peer-reviewed journals as sources for citations.  If the school offers an online library, it can be easy to search for these journals by simply marking the box under the search line that lists something like “search for peer-reviewed journals only” or “scholarly peer-reviewed”.  By marking this box, anything that comes up in the search should be appropriate to use for college-level assignments.

A peer-reviewed journal insures that the article is of the highest quality and reflects sound research.  Library.usm.main.edu does a nice job of explaining the peer review process:

  • Articles submitted by authors are evaluated by a group of peer experts in the field.
  • The reviewers recommend whether the submitted article be published, revised, or rejected.
  • This review process is often performed “blind”, meaning the reviewers do not know the names or academic affiliations of the authors, and the authors do not know who is reviewing their work.

Ulrich’s Periodical Directory Online is a link where the journals’ title can be submitted to get a report about whether the journal is actually peer-reviewed. 

What is meant by scholarly journals?  CalPoly explained, “Scholarly journals contain articles written by, and addressed to, experts in a discipline. They are concerned with academic study, especially research, and demonstrate the methods and concerns of scholars. The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report original research or experimentation and to communicate this information to the rest of the scholarly world. The language of scholarly journals reflects the discipline covered, as it assumes some knowledge or background on the part of the reader. Scholarly journals always rigorously cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. Many scholarly journals are published by professional organizations.”

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Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Doctoral Dissertation

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the pitfalls many other doctoral students may have encountered when writing their dissertations?

As a doctoral chair, I guide students through the process of writing a dissertation.  There are different problems that many of them may face based on the topics they chose to study.  I prefer to chair quantitative, business-related studies, so my suggestions may be slanted in that direction.

Here are the top 10 things that I think a doctoral student should be made aware of from the beginning:

  1. The process will probably take longer than you think.  There may be a set of doctoral courses required for the dissertation part of your degree.  For example, there may be Class 1, 2, and 3.  They will explain that if you don’t finish 1, you can take 1a and 1b, etc.  Be prepared to take 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, etc.  Remember that every time you take the class, it costs money.  Have it in your budget in case you need extra courses.
  2. Find a good doctoral chair (also called doctoral mentor).  The school will probably have a website that lists professors that you can pick from, to be your chair.  Go through the lists carefully to find one that fits your topic and your needs.  Send them a very polite letter of request to be your chair/mentor.  Do not send a bulk message to a lot of potential chairs.  This is seen as tacky.   I recommend talking to them on the phone prior to signing up with any of them.  If they don’t want to do this, you may want to pick someone who is more hospitable.  Find out if they work at your speed.  I had two different chairs in my journey.  The first one was not a good fit for me.  The second was much better. Keep in mind that you can probably change chairs later if you find out it isn’t working for you.
  3. Become an APA expert.  Most schools require that your paper is in APA 6th edition right now.  Click here for writing help.  When you submit a dissertation, the review board will be beyond picky about this.  Every space, every heading, every table, etc. has to be exact.  Schools usually have writing centers that can help you with APA as well. 
  4. Find a good statistician.  If you are going to do a quantitative study, you will need an excellent statistician for guidance.  It helps to have SPSS software as well. It is important to understand how to do a Power Analysis when deciding on your population and sample size.
  5. Strong editing is a must.  Schools are very picky about anthropomorphisms and they don’t like what they call “fluff” wording.  They want the writing to sound scholarly.  Avoid using words like:  However, In Addition, Therefore.  Do not refer to yourself in the document.  Example:  The research did blah blah blah.  Don’t use the wording “the researcher” unless you are referring to someone other than you.  There should be no first person references in the paper at all. The proposal will be written in future tense so everything you write will be about what will happen.  The only thing that the proposal has in past tense is what others have written.  For example:  Hamilton (2011) stated blah blah blah is OK but everything that you propose to do must be in future tense.  There should be no personal bias.  Use research citations to back up your points.  When you write Chapters 1-3 of the proposal, you need to refer to your study as the proposed study.  Do not forget to include the word proposed
  6. Have a good template.  Some schools use a company called Bold that offers a dissertation template that has all of the formatting set up already.  These templates usually cost under $100 and are worth it.  They have the hard parts like the table of contents set up for you.  Some students try to write their dissertation in a regular Word document first and transfer it over to the Bold document later. This can cause a real headache with formatting and I don’t recommend it.
  7. Set up a schedule and become organized.  I have seen students flounder because they find the process overwhelming and don’t know where to begin.  Setting up a schedule for when you will do things is very helpful.  Set aside a certain number of hours in the week dedicated to your research and writing.   Usually the first doctoral class is set up to create Chapters 1-3 of your proposal.  It may be helpful to begin with Chapter 2 first to research the topic you have in mind. Look for areas in the research where there are gaps that still need addressing.  When you have written about everything others have done regarding your topic in Chapter 2, it should help highlight the exact area where you want to focus for Chapter 1.
  8. Download past dissertations. Looking at past dissertations written by students at your school can be very helpful.  It will give you a template of the format that is appropriate for your school and show you how others handled specific sections.
  9. Keep studies in notebooks.  I personally found it helpful to keep all of the studies I referenced in notebooks. I would alphabetize them by author last name.  I had 5 or 6 different notebooks based on the topics.  For example, since my dissertation was on emotional intelligence and its impact on sales performance, I would have a notebook about sales studies, another about emotional intelligence tests, another about emotional intelligence in workplace, etc. 
  10. Don’t give up.  Think of writing a dissertation as you would writing a book.  It has chapters and has to be approached one step at a time.  You wouldn’t write a book all in one day and you can’t write a dissertation that way either.  Sometimes students fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s there.  It just takes a while to get there.

I recommend reading some of the following books:

APA Publication Manual 6th Edition

Business Research Methods

Research Strategies

Methods in Behavioral Research

Spot the Fake Smile: Fun Test That May Surprise You

Have you ever wondered if that smile someone flashed you is sincere?  You might want to check out some research on the BBC Science site.  “Their experiment is designed to test whether you can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one.  It has 20 questions and should take you 10 minutes. It is based on research by Professor Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California. Each video clip will take approximately 15 seconds to load on a 56k modem and you can only play each smile once.”

I took the test and only got 14 out of 20 correct.  According to this research, I am not alone in having difficulty spotting the fake smiles.  “Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles. One possible explanation for this is that it may be easier for people to get along if they don’t always know what others are really feeling. Although fake smiles often look very similar to genuine smiles, they are actually slightly different, because they are brought about by different muscles, which are controlled by different parts of the brain.”

If that is the case, I guess getting a 70% is that bad.  I personally found one of the smiles to be a little disturbing.  I noticed that I did get that one correct.  Click here to take the Spot The Fake Smile Test.