7.2 Engaging with the research in the field
The deeper you go into research the more you will find yourself engaging with the research in the field. The nature of practitioner research means that this engagement may not always be at the start of your research journey as you may still be identifying the issue within your own teaching and learning context.
The value of engaging with the research in the field is that it enables you to place your own research within the broader research as well as practice community, and places you in a much better position to contribute to that community. It is also fair to say that it is important for all practitioner researchers to be aware of at least some of the research in the field but it is vital for those wishing to disseminate their findings or have influence beyond their own practice.
Conferences and publications
Conferences and publications are still a mainstay of most research and so, if you wish to know more about the context or theoretical underpinnings of your particular research, then you will need to engage with the relevant conferences and publications.
Therre are several key types of conference or publication which are of relevance to practitioner researchers. These are
- Teaching and learning conferences
- Subject specific conferences
- Technology enhanced learning and distance learning conferences
- Educational development conferences
Each of these types of conference is outlined in more detail in the section on Conferences and Publications
Using research databases
As a practitioner researcher, particularly if you come from a very different subject area, it may be quite difficult to find out about journals which are relevant to practitioner research.
Databases are an excellent way of discovering such journals, and many also invlude non-peer reviewed publications such as newspaper articles and reports. Some just offer citations but quite a few also provide full text articles, which saves you the bother of looking them up.
Finally, a number of databases also offer a citation searching faciltiy where you can find articles which have cited an earlier article in the database.
A particularly useful database for practitioner researchers is Academic Search Complete, which is an inter-disciplinary database accessible via the library resources page of the Open University library website:
It provides full text articles, allows citation searching and the search can be limited to include the most recent or peer reviewed articles only. A word of caution, however. The database does not relaese full text articles until a year after publication and so you may have to unclick the 'peer reviewed journals only' option and look for more recent articles via the e-journals facility of the OU library.
Another database is Educational Research Abstracts, again available via the OU library. It operates in a similar way to Academic Search Complete and allows you to dowload full articles, do citation searching and limit searches. It appears not to have the 12 month publication embargo operated by Academic Search Complete and so may be a better bet for more recent articles.
It is no longer the case that research suddenly appears as a conference paper or research article. Instead, the process and emergent themes of research is increasingly being communicated online.
Individual researchers, or sometimes projects, may use Twitter, Facebook or blogs to inform people of their research before it gets to the stage of more formal dissemination. Two examples, both involving Open Univeristy research are the A particular example is the Hugging the Coast project and the Oecumene project. Both use a blog, although in quite different ways, to keep people up to date:
Of course, as the example of Hugging the Coast and Oecumene demonstrate, websites are also an extremely useful way of being informed about what research is going on within the sector.
Particularly within the Open University, Open Research Online (ORO), is a fanstastic way of finding what research is being published by OU researchers and contains pre-publication articles and abstracts of reports.