In the last few Things, we looked at alternative ways of sharing your research. In order to give your research proper academic credibility, it is important to provide readers with links to peer-reviewed, published articles. However, this presents the reader with a problem: Access.
(If your research is not yet published, there is also the problem of copyright, which we talked about in Thing 8.)
Traditionally, research is written up into articles, which are submitted to a publisher, peer reviewed, and then published in an academic journal (if you want to know more about this process come to our publishing workshops). Institutions must pay both to submit the article, and to buy the access to the article (called a journal subscription).
This limits the availability of academic papers to subscribing institutions, journal members, and one-off fee-payers.
Open Access is about making research papers freely available to anyone who is interested.
Videos and podcasts are a growing part of sharing information, and sharing research through presentations. In Thing 12 we introduced some of the tools for making and sharing media. Now we’re going to look at applying those tools to research. We’ll explore some new tools for creating presentations, and you can experiment with sites such as Slideshare that let you share your research and presentations online.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Standard film runs through 24 frames per second. On this basis, turning your thesis into a film should allow you to communicate it approximately 15 times in a minute.
Efficiency aside, make data approachable through visualisation techniques is increasingly important – and getting easier all the time. There are now many tools to help you turn your information into maps, animations or charts, making it much easier to grab the attention of your audience, explain complicated ideas, and demonstrate the impact of your research.
You will not need to make or upload a podcast or video to complete this thing, but this post should give you some idea of the tools available. Please take some time to explore these tools and think about how they might be useful to you. If you’re feeling brave, we do encourage you to try them out – even if it’s only for a brief screen capture or a video to introduce yourself. Increasingly, universities and other employers are asking for short videos by applicants, especially for teaching roles, so it’s good to have had some practice.
The internet is swollen with interesting content, including broadcasts, lectures, slideshows and demonstrations. Materials are becoming easier to obtain on almost any subject. Knowing what’s out there and how to get it can supplement your research, and especially teaching.
Podcasts are audio – or increasingly video – files broadcast online (for example, recordings of radio programmes, lectures, readings, drama, interviews or music). You can listen to or view a podcast online, but they can also be downloaded, and you can usually subscribe to a series of podcasts via RSS, so that it automatically downloads to your computer or mobile device (iTunes makes this easy).
Podcasts aren’t the only way to put presentations online, however; sites such as Slideshare allow users to post presentations of all sorts. YouTube can also be a treasure-trove of quality information.
Social media and digital tools are great for both finding and sharing images online. The images that you find and share can have multiple uses, including for your research.
Ever wondered where you can find a great image to give your presentation or blog post the edge? Or wanted to share an image of yourself doing something amazing for your research? Images can dramatically enhance communication of your research online, amongst peers, or with the public.
We’ll cover two types of image tools: online photo storing and sharing sites such as Flickr that allow you to upload lots of your own photos, and sites such as Instagram and Pinterest that are designed for sharing.
Wikipedia is the best example of what the ‘wisdom of crowds’ can achieve , although it is not without its detractors. To get an overview of the pros and cons, read the Wikipedia page about Wikipedia itself, and some of the pages linked to and from it. Wikipedia is often criticised as inaccurate or unreliable, but it is, in fact, one of the biggest sources of factual information online, and studies have shown that in many cases its accuracy compares favourably to other established online encyclopaedias. Even controversial Wikipedia articles can offer an excellent picture of the controversy itself via an article’s discussion page. Like any encyclopaedia, Wikipedia articles can be a great starting point for research.
If you are thinking of using externally sourced material (e.g. when you get to Thing 10), it’s important to understand the basics of what you can and can’t use. This post won’t/can’t cover it all (governments are grappling with the complexities of online copyright as we speak!), but we’ll look at Creative Commons (CC) and how it frees us to share and reuse online.
CC is a non-profit organisation that offers a simple, standardised way to give public permission to share and/or use your creative work. CC licenses offer various levels of permissions, from ‘all rights reserved’ to ‘some rights reserved’. CC licenses are now commonly found on photos, blogs (including this blog), published material, teaching resources, music and more.
Reference management tools are one of the single most useful digital tools for a researcher today. Gone are the days of painstakingly changing each of your in-text citations to a footnote, or changing each full stop in a reference to a comma because a journal required it. Online reference management tools allow you to:
import references from different sources (e.g. websites, library catalogues, bibliographic databases)
manage and/or edit the references once they are in the system, and add manually any references that you cannot find online
export references into a document, either as a single bibliography, or individually (often called ‘cite while you write’) which generates a list of references.
format the bibliography according the referencing style of your choice, and re-format if/when necessary
We hope you’re enjoying the many Things of the first few weeks. Break Week is a chance to catch up if you’ve not had time to look at everything so far, and perhaps write some reflections on how it’s going. It’s also a good chance to read other people’s blogs and see how they are doing.
Alternatively and additionally, give yourself a good pat on the back for getting this far, and try some of the more frivolous benefits of the things we’ve looked at.
Why not start a Twitter-war with Piers Morgan, or try these unexpected uses?
Whatever helps make your week a good one, we wish you success. See you for the next Thing next Week!