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Research & Disciplines

Academic Disciplines and Scholarly Communication
Academic disciplines have their own patterns of scholarly work and communication.  Each discipline has its own definitions of what constitutes meaningful or significant research questions, appropriate research methods, what constitutes “evidence” or originality, what is publishable, how a paper is written, and what types and titles of publications are the most prestigious.
What constitutes a discipline?

Debates are ongoing about the elements that must be present to constitute a legitimate disciplinary field. Among such elements are the presence of a community of scholars; a tradition or history of inquiry; a mode of inquiry that defines how data is collected and interpreted, as well as defining the requirements for what constitutes new knowledge; and the existence of a communications network.
From:  Academic Disciplines, Education Encyclopedia

These patterns are often implicit rather than explicit, and are frequently transmitted to graduate students in a discipline as a form of “apprenticeship” learning.  Yet it is also possible through reflection and observation, to recognize some of the patterns.  There are also some statistical methods for assessing the relative impact or influence of a research report, researcher, theory, or publication.

Scholarly Communication
A tutorial on the library website at the University of Pennsylvania, summarizes scholarly communication issues in disciplines in this way:
“When groups of scholars share a cluster of interests, methods of study, and norms of communication, we say that they participate in a discipline. Dialogue in each discipline is based on types of evidence and methods of analysis that scholars in that discipline privilege.
In order for your research to contribute to the dialog of a community of scholars you should observe several standards.
•    Focus on issues appropriate to your discipline
•    Use methods appropriate to your discipline
•    Use technical terms appropriate to your discipline
•    Use the standards of your discipline to determine which resources are acceptable
•    Scholarly communities expect scholarly communications to build on the work of other scholars in the community and expect that those scholars will use the methods standard to that discipline.
•    Use the channels of communication standard for that discipline”

The ultimate reason for understanding these features of scholarly work and publication in your discipline is so that you can take your place as a respected and published researcher in your field.  But this type of knowledge can also help you as a student. 

Understanding the types of events that constitute intellectual progress in your field gets you to think like a researcher with the ability to analyze and critique the research you read, and to improve methods for locating and identifying relevant research in the first place.

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