Continuing on the topic of student conceptions of research, another issue I have encountered as students conduct literature reviews is the belief that Jstor is the first and last place to look for academic research. This belief seems to be less prevalent at my current institution than my previous one, but many of my past students never even considered looking for sources outside of Jstor due to the convenience of full-text articles.
One problem with this is the fact that Jstor only provides results from the journals in its own collection, artificially limiting the resources that students have available to them to whatever Jstor has been able to negotiate for. (I wonder if students would be equally willing to limit their movie viewing to those that are available for streaming on Netflix, which has similar convenience and limitations.) The second problem is that even when Jstor does include a particular journal, access to that journal is often limited by a “moving wall” of three to five years. There are many topics for which recent publications contain important insights that were overlooked in the past but that students using Jstor would not have access to for several years (I was once accused of not knowing the literature in a particular area because I had not cited an article published a month or so before I submitted a paper to a journal!).
These issues can cause problems but are not lethal to a student’s chances of doing well. A much worse (though much less frequent) problem I’ve had when students use Jstor is that they think of Jstor as the source of the articles they are using. In the minds of some students, they are reading articles from Jstor rather than from The American Review of Criminal Awkwardness because that is where they got their articles. These rare students don’t realize that Jstor is like a shelf holding specific issues of specific journals rather than a publisher of academic information.
As professors, we can begin to address these issues with our students but the ASA citation guidelines can also help by not instructing students to include web addresses for PDFs that they downloaded from online databases. It is time to recognize that the database through which you access a source is not nearly as important as the original source of the source! (A source is a source, of course, of course…)
“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via
Jstor your news feed.