Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Academic Credibility of Social Networking

One thought has led to another.

In my last post I was bemoaning the fact that the students I work with do not appear to go far beyond paper journals in the library to gain information, especially for academic assignments. Why don't students go to blogs, YouTube, wikis and so on for their information, I agonize?!

Isn't it because of the value we put on academic or authoritative knowledge? A research article from a peer-reviewed journal is considered credible. Yet a blog posting that may contribute hugely to a student's learning may be considered inappropriate for an academic essay.

I know this debate has been held many times elsewhere, but my own experience of blogging has certainly made me think twice about authoritative knowledge, and in particular where blogs, slidecasts, videos and so on sit in the grand academic scheme of things.

What do you think about the academic merits of blogs and so on? Are they an appropriate source of academic knowledge or should they be limited to modes of communication only?

Image: 'Professor' Tim O'Brien


Anonymous said...

Probably depends on the blog and the person behind the blog - but i don't really consider a blog an academic source - any academic source mentioned in a blog should ideally be accessed and evaluated by the studnet in academic writing. A blog may be useful for gathering ideas or raising awareness or consciousness of different ways of thinking - but to build this into a piece of academic work would require the integration with academic sources I believe.

Anonymous said...

In the "classroom" (virtual or concrete block - i think blogs, slidecasts etc can be used as a springboard for discussion or reflection.

Claire Thompson said...

Blogs are another great way to access information. You might not end up citing a blog, but a blog might lead you to a good 'citable' source.

Carolyn McIntosh said...

I agree with both of these comments. I think a blog is a good place for someone with an interest in a topic to voice their thoughts (thinking out loud really) and to pull together evidence to support their perspective. I do not believe this can then be held to be authoritative knowledge in itself, but it may guide others to sources of authoritative knowledge. A blog is also a place where alternative perspectives can be discussed and perhaps also a place where new knowledge can germinate. For this to then grow into something which can be considered authoritative it would have to go through some formal research and evaluation process. A blog is a place where conflicting evidence can be highlighted by the blogger or the commenter, therefore making others aware that what they may consider to be authoritative and exemplary is actually questionable.

Carolyn McIntosh said...

Good questions by the way.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, a lot of value is put on peer-reviewed journals from just about the first day of the degree and in first year, a lot of time was spent discussing different sources of information, the validity of information retrieved from the internet compared to academic journals and critiquing and using primary sources of information.

I don't think that I would have ever considered using a blog as a source to gain information for an essay... but, your post Sarah, and Carolyn's comments, got me thinking about what the possibility of using a blog or wikis etc as a way of germinating ideas and maybe this leading onto other academic sources or ways of thinking around and presenting information in an essay, I think it could have possibilities, but could also distract from getting that research done in order to get yet another essay written!

Why didn't I think of using blogs etc when I was a student?!! You may not have agonised so much then Sarah!

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Megan, Rae, Carolyn & Claire, thank you all for your comments-great to get some clarity about this.

I do think it depends on the blog as to how academically 'credible' it is. I wouldn't see my blog as anything other than a place to start discussions and access information. But there are other blogs that have a high level of synthesis and argument. The peer review comes form people's responses to the posts. These I see as acceptable sources of information. I think it will be very interesting to see how this argument develops over the next few years.

Anonymous said...

I think the comment about time is very valid (megans) - in my experience traditional research - at the library or looking at academic databases - is always distracting enough (theres always something to catch your eye - but totally irrelevant to the task/deadline to hand) - if I was to start surfing blogs amidst an assignment writing exploit I may just never get there. (no comment necessary from you on that sarah! LOL).
It probably comes down to a question of personal discipline (ie: disciplining yourself to move away from the material which may interest you more at the moment but is not what your lecturer is asking for tomorrow).
Maybe a more feasible approach is to view blogs as a vocational / liesure / lifestyle pass-time (midwives tend to be fairly devoted - and for many midwifery is a lifestyle not just a job)- perhaps just treating ourselves to a certain amount of blog surfing a week - then ideas generated there can be used for academic exploration or expansion at assignment time - with a focus at that time on more institutionally acceptable sources. Most of our students are fairly time poor. They have to ask...is blog hopping really gonna shift their mark from B to A? They do have to be rather savvy about how they spend the time available and time management is a skill. They also have to balance time management with producing good work that demonstrates practice capability and credibility.
I think a well accomplished student can probably manage this but for others i wonder if it would just have the potential to muddy the waters? or shift a student who is managing time to one who just loses the plot?