Teaching Real Research in the Real World

Jain Orr is the librarian, Campus Innovation Connector, and device manager at McCallum HS.

As the school librarian for McCallum High School, one of my favorite things to do is teach students how to use research databases to find peer-reviewed journal articles. Teachers want me to show students how to access these sources, navigate the advanced search features, and of course, show them the citation tool.
I like to take this task a step further to demystify and contextualize the entire research enterprise. Using the following graphic I made as my guide, I take them through the research process, showing them what it looks like in the real world, beyond high school. I emphasize the quality of information they will find there by speaking in terms of “quality of eyeballs” and “number of eyeballs” that go over this information before it is available to the public.

  1. Research Grant Proposal

Usually people associated with a University apply for funding to do research. Typically college professors with PhDs in that area of study – meaning they have spent 7-9 years (in addition to their 4 year Bachelor’s degree) doing scholarship in this field. Their proposal is reviewed by experts of these granting agencies (like the National Science Foundation) to ensure the research is timely and advances the field. 

  1. Institutional Review Board (IRB)

If the research is funded by the granting agency and requires participants (formally called “research subjects”), it will undergo an ethics review by the university before the research can start. This is because of unethical research practices of the past that were abusive, used prisoners or children, or misled the participants. 

  1. Research

This part may be the quickest! The researcher performs their research and reports their results to the granting entity.

  1. Peer-Review Journal Submission

The researcher will also want to share the results of their research with others in their field. There is typically a “call for papers” and scholars in the field will submit their research for publication. 

  1. Peer Review

If accepted, an article will typically go back and forth between the reviewers and the author to address any errors in formatting or any unaddressed questions.

  1. Publication

The article is published in an academic or peer-reviewed journal. At this point, it has probably been years since the research was conducted. It is now published where peers in the field can find it. 

  1. Databases

Databases like Gale or EBSCO contract with the various journals to make it easier for scholars to locate information across many different academic journals and disciplines. The databases are like the streaming service “Netflix” – where you have shows from all different content creators.

  1. Library

In the example where databases are like streaming services, the library is like your friend who gives you the password. Access to these databases is extremely expensive so that mostly only large institutions like school, public and university libraries can afford access.

  1. You (the student, the user)

In a sense, this is where I jump into the lesson that teachers envisioned: showing students how to access these sources, use advanced searching, and cite correctly. I also do a little bit about jargon, and how it is a short-hand because high school students are NOT the intended audience of this writing, but other scholars in the field who speak the language.

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