Academic texts, part 7: internet sources


To have a special blog post about scientific texts on Internet might seem a bit old fashioned. Most of the examples I have used before are from the web, either from scientific journals, conference proceedings, books freely available online or resources which you as students at the university can access. The university library subscribes to e-journals and e-books. A number of the scientific texts we come in contact with are available online but there are some special web resources which I would like to touch upon, especially those when the researchers themselves make their research freely available online.

During the last 15 years Open Access movement has grown bigger. The movement aims to make as many research publications as possible freely (without any cost for the reader) available online. Open access has been quite successful when it comes to articles, confrernce proceedings, doctoral/licentiate thesis and student thesis and more and more of books are made freely available (e.g. Libraries, black metal and corporate finance).One way to make articles open access is to publish them in an open access journal which does not charge the reader. Examples of this are PLOS Biology och Human IT, which has been mentioned in the previous blog posts. To publish open access does not indicate anything about the scientific quality of the research. The research quality can be extremly high or less so.

Another way to open access is that the text is published in a subscribtion based journal, printed in an anthology or similar but the author makes the text available in some other way. In these cases it should be clear where the text has been published originally and therefore you know it has gone through peer review. In some cases the auhtor makes a text available which has not been accepted for publishing. This is called pre-print. In these cases no one has peer reviewed the text to determine the reliability of the text.

When an author makes a published text available it is often done in one of the following ways:

  • In an open archive/repository. An archive like this might be provided by the researchers’ university, e.g. University of Borås’ BADA, or it can be subject oriented, e.g. which has become very popular in physics, computer science, mathematics and related research areas.
  • On the researcher’s own web site. This option might be a bit less used nowadays due to the institutional archives. In this case the researcher makes his/her research available through a web site, e.g. James Paul Gee,a researcher who has written a lot about learning, computer games and socio-cultural theory. You might notice that Gee is using a blog platform to make his research available. Just because it is a blog does not say anything about the scientificness or reliability of his texts. You should look at other indicators such as who is behind the published text and other aspects discussed in the previous blog posts.

Finally, I would like to point out that not all publications and all journals which say they are scientific are that. You have probably noticed that. All kinds of publications get distributed online which makes it easy to encounter journals which are not as scientific as they say they are (e.g. Open access and predatory publishers.) Tips given in these blog posts give a first indication on what you should look for to make an informed decision whether a text is scientific or nor. The more scientific and non-scientific texts your encounter the easier it will be to judge what is what.

And ask for help! You can discuss these matters with

  • your course mates
  • your teachers
  • Librarians

//Helena Francke, lector at BHS

Blog post is translated from Swedish by Pieta Eklund.