The past couple weeks have been a real education when it comes to using the web for academic research. I am at different places on each of what I’ve identified (so far) as three primary knowledge streams of the MA I’m undertaking, research being the one I’ve got a middling amount of comfort with.
I do some as part of my work but need much stronger rigour to do it well, and I’m a neophyte on the learning theory part. I’ve used the web daily in work and personal pursuits for well over a decade and tend to just take it for granted. I wonder if anyone else in my cohort places themselves in different comfort zones for these knowledge streams or if they even look at it that way?
I always wondered how citations and references were kept straight, particularly when you read a thesis with dozens upon dozens. What’s been a real eye opener is the availability of academic papers, journals and other research through online databases. Mind you, until you have access to them via your school library, they remain largely unknown or unavailable.
I know I will only have access to the academic databases through RRU for the duration of my MA, but I have a notion that I may be able to continue to access them as a staff member through BCIT‘s online library interface. It’s something I intend to check out fairly soon. I’m hoping to move to more research based work down the road, so I’m certainly hoping.
In terms of actually keeping references straight for citation purposes, I’ve played a little with Refworks to this point and have to say that it’s a marvel – another tool that you get access to as a Masters student. It’s like Delicious on steroids, specific to academic reference and citation. I’ve been aware of another research bookmarking tool, called Connotea, but brief looks have left me wondering about its value. It’s targeted at scientific researchers, but I’m not sure of any citation formatting or similar functionality. I could be wrong, as I just haven’t looked at it much.
Everything is saved for later use and you can spit out references in a variety of academic formatting, suitable for whatever you’re writing at the time. I’m already hooked and, whether I decide to go the project or thesis route, I’m sure it will become pretty much my favourite online research tool. These discoveries are nothing short of serendipitous for me.