Friday, October 9, 2009

Cliches and annoying words

This somewhat relates to my entry on cliches from July '08.

A fun note from: The Marist Institute poll (2009):

Most Annoying Words:

“If you’re like, “whatever,” and someone gives you a mean look, just remember it is what it is – certain sayings rub people the wrong way, you know? Anyway, at the end of the day, who cares?

If the above paragraph thoroughly irritated you, you’re probably not alone. The question is, which word or phrase bothered you the most?

Chances are it was “whatever.” In a recent Marist poll, nearly half of Americans – 47% – said they find “whatever” most annoying. The other sayings weren’t quite so loathed. 25% say they find “you know” most grating; 11% can’t stand “it is what it is”; 7% would like to ban “anyway” from all verbal exchanges; and 2% reported that they could do without hearing “at the end of the day.”

Interestingly, if you’re traveling to the Midwest, it might be especially wise to leave your store of “whatevers” at home. 55% of residents in that region dislike the term, while only 19% of them disapprove of “you know.” In contrast, 35% of Northeast residents say “whatever” is most annoying, while 32% are most bothered by “you know” (2009, para. 1-4).

Keep writing!

Monday, October 5, 2009

How to read a journal article

The response to the title of this entry is “it depends” (the favorite answer in social work!) How you read and the goal of reading an article vary from paper to paper, class to class, professor to professor. It also varies according to your level of education (undergrad versus graduates, first year MSW versus 2nd year versus advanced standing). If you have had coursework in research methods and statistics, you will read the article differently than if you have not. In addition, different students have different skills and abilities when it comes to understanding results.

Reed and Ellis (2003) give some guidelines for beginning social work students and most undergraduates, as follows:

How to read a research article:

1. Read the Abstract, Introduction and Discussion sections first.

2. Abstract: is a short summary of the paper.

3. Introduction: answers the questions “Why was the study done?” “What were the researchers hoping to accomplish?” “Does this study seek to repeat (replicate) another study or fill a gap in knowledge?” “Does this study disprove, update or confirm another study?”

4. Discussion: answers “What did the study find?” “What are the implications of the findings?” “How do the researchers explain discrepancies or unexpected findings?” “Were result marred by mistakes or poor methods?” “Where do we go from here? What’s next?”

5. Next, check the literature review to gain background on the study. “What has been done before?” “How does this study fit in?”

6. Skim the results section.

Generally, look for answers to the following questions as you read the article:

1. Why was this study done?

2. What were the assumptions that guided this study?

3. What have other people said about this issue?

4. What other studies have been done on this issue?

5. How was the study done?

6. How were possible errors accounted for?

7. What are the implications of the results?

8. What are the ethical considerations?

9. What theories were used?

10. How well was this study done?

11. What variables were studied?

(Derived from Reed, C. & Ellis, CA. (2003). New Directions for Writers: College Writing and the World of Work. NY: Longman, p. 247-252).

Students in MSW programs have generally had more coursework in statistics and research methods, as well as more experience reading journal articles, than undergraduates. MSW students may be expected to do more than “skim” the results section and should read the entire article. You might want to talk to your professor to determine what you will be expected to understand and critique regarding statistical analysis. It would be great if you develop enough proficiency to critique statistical methods. In addition, it is probably expected that MSW students pay more attention to the methods section of research papers than undergrads and be able to critique this section (Why did the researchers make certain choices? What was good/bad? What might have worked better? Were there errors in the method that might affect the result of the study?). It is always a good idea to try to use peer-reviewed or refereed journal articles in writing your papers. These met a higher standard of excellence than non-reviewed articles. Such articles are reviewed by experts in the field and by editors who do often examine the statistics to insure they were done properly. When you are searching through databases for articles, you can often click on “peer reviewed only” through advanced search features.

Keep writing!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The doi and APA

The doi

A student requested I write about the doi, tell what it is, how to find it and how to use it.

Because documents on the internet may be moved around, international publishers developed a system called the doi or “document object identifier.” This number, which always begins with 10, is a number that will permanently mark and follow that document, making retrieval at a later date easier. Not all documents currently have a doi, though they are being assigned over time.

In the past, when you have referenced a journal article using APA (5th edition) you listed the retrieved on date and either the database from where you got the article OR the URL. Now, if there is a doi, you just use that, no retrieval date, no URL, no database name.

The doi’s I have seen are usually fairly easy to find, though some are hidden. I have found them at or near the top or the bottom of the first page of text (which APA recommends), under a copyright statement, or under the publication information. However, sometimes the doi is hidden behind a button (e.g. Article, CrossRef or PubMed button) and you must click on the button to get the doi. Make sure you cut and paste the doi onto your paper, as it is easy to mess up otherwise.

If you find a doi on a journal article, the reference entry will look like:

Washington, G. & Jefferson, T. (2000). Political alliances, past and future.

Journal of American Politics, 17, 33-41. doi 10.1021/2209-6133.22.4.033

(remember to indent every line after the first line within a reference entry 5 spaces- blogspot won't let me do it in the above example).

According to APA 6th edition, the doi can also be found on the database landing page for the article (full record display). It often DOES NOT say "doi" and is a long string of numbers and characters starting with 10.

Keep writing!

Splitting Infinitives

To Split an Infinitive

An infinitive is a verb with the word “to” attached to it. To run, to walk, to argue, to discuss are all infinitives. Splitting an infinitive is interposing an adverb (a word that describes how a verb is done) in between the “to” and the verb. Examples of split infinitives are:

To swiftly run

To slowly walk

To vehemently argue

To loudly discuss

It is technically incorrect and infinitives should not be split, so, instead write:

To run swiftly

To walk slowly

To argue vehemently

To discuss loudly

These are considered to be more correct.

However, some more recent sources (this rule has been around since the 14th century!) suggest that splitting an infinitive is not a big problem. Some sources say it is OK to do when you are trying to emphasize the adjective. I would try to avoid splitting infinitives (I think it makes the verb seem “weaker” somehow) and wanted you to know what this is in the event you are told to NOT do it!

Keep writing!