Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

PALNI Information Literacy Modules

Module 14: Scholarly Conversation

Introduction 

Scholarship as conversation  

(Steely Library NKU, Scholarship as Conversation, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Scholarly research “is a discursive practice in which ideas are formulated, debated, and weighed against one another over extended periods of time" (ACRL, 2016). 

You become a part of this "discursive practice" as you consider multiple perspectives, findings, and interpretations through your research. This back and forth process is a formally structured scholarly conversation.

This learning module examines scholarly conversation within the context of academic discourse.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, you will be able to: 

  • Define scholarly conversation.
  • Identify strategies for researching forward/backward.

Defining Scholarly Conversation

Throughout your academic career, you will engage in many conversations, discussions, and debates. Often, these conversations are ongoing but will result in you creating an original paper, project, or poster, for example, in which you add your voice to the conversation.

Consider this metaphor by Kenneth Burke, American literary theorist, 

Imagine that you enter a parlor, You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about.
In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified
to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar.

Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you,
to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance.

However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart.
And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

(The Philosophy of Literary Form, 1967, p. 110-111)          

Engaging in scholarly conversation, much like you do personal conversations with family, peers, and coworkers, and acknowledging your role within it, is an aspect of academic integrity.

Scholarly conversation is the existing research surrounding a topic; sometimes the existing research may present opinions that defend or refute the current conversation. Also, the research may show how a conversation has changed over time as new ideas and viewpoints emerge, and many conversations continue well into the future.

Acknowledging the "nature of scholarly conversations" allows you to "formulate and add your own ideas to an ongoing conversation" (Lumen, 2019). This helps you add your own informed voice, either through a paper, presentation, opinion, or creative production) to the conversation and builds your credibility as a researcher.

3-Step Conversation

Think of it as a 3-step conversation.

Much like you would with family, friends, and colleagues, you should take the time to eavesdrop before you enter an opinion and engage in the conversation.

See the infographic for more information about this "3-Step Conversation."

Conversation Infographic  Eavesdropping, Entering, and Engaging  
(magic.piktochart.com, Research is a Conversation, CC)

The next page of this module will give you ideas about how to engage effectively in scholarly conversation.

Engaging in Scholarly Conversation

Watch this video clip, created by Oklahoma State Library (2016) to better understand how the practice of responsibly engaging in scholarly conversation helps you produce honest, respectable work.

 

Citations are the “thread of that [scholarly] conversation” visibly connecting ideas from diverse perspectives and multiple time periods (Sawyer Library, 2021). The way in which you consume information while conducting your academic research determines how well you fully engage in the conversation.

STRATEGIES (for engaging in scholarly conversation)

research backward  Research BACKWARD - Uncover the BEFORE 
Researching backward is the process of looking into the works cited. It involves using a source’s Works Cited, Reference page, or Bibliography, for example, to examine the works that came before and influenced that publication. 

Researching backward enables you to more fully understand the context of the ideas presented in a source. It gives you a “snapshot” of the ideas and thinking at the “time of publication”  (Sawyer Library, 2021).  

Additionally, researching backward helps you further trust and respect an author’s interpretation of their cited information.

Finally, this process provides evidence of the scholarly conversation prior to the dialogue in a specific resource.

The Process of Researching Backward

  1. Identify a citation from the Works Cited, References, or Bibliography to investigate. Do this by clicking on links such as "Cited References" (in a library database) or by opening the pdf of an article.
    research backward 01.PNG  
        
  2. Enter the title of the resource you identified (in step one) into a search engine or library search.
  3. Find the matching publication and examine sections of the resource to determine how it might have influenced your source.
  4. Ask a librarian if you need help researching backward or finding access to a source. 

research forward  Research FORWARD - Investigate the AFTER

Researching forward is the process of investigating if and how a source has been cited after its publication. This allows you to better understand the impact of a source and to clarify how others have interpreted its content (Sawyer Library, 2021).  

Researching forward is especially important if you are considering information more than a few years old. Depending on the topic, you will likely gain a more fair representation of the scholarly conversation by investigating the work that follows.

Look for "Cited by" links in Google Scholar and "Times cited..." links in most library databases to determine the impact of a resource you've found.

The Process of Researching Forward

  1. Type the title of your resource into Google Scholar. 

    scholar capture.PNG  


     
  2. After identifying the matching publication, click on the "Cited by ..." to explore the resources that have cited your source.

    resaerch backward 02.PNG  

     
  3. Browse the resources that have cited your source by clicking on titles or by using the option "Search within citing articles" to find publications that have come after your source.

    research forward 03.PNG

     
  4. Ask a librarian if you need help researching forward or finding access to a source. 
     

Acknowledgments

Burke, K. (1967). The philosophy of literary form: Studies in symbolic action, (2nd ed.). Louisiana State University Press. https://franklincollege.on.worldcat.org/oclc/175812

Lumen. (2019). "Module 8: Scholarship as conversation." Introduction to College Research. lumencandela. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd-fscj-introtoresearch/chapter/scholarly-conversation/

Oklahoma State Library. (2016, May 18). Inform your thinking: Episode 1 - Research is a conversation. OkStateLibrary. [Video] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmbO3JX5xvU

Sawyer Library. (2021, Feb 11). Citation searching. Williams College. https://libguides.williams.edu/citationsearching https://libguides.williams.edu/citationsearching/introduction 

Steely Library NKU. (2018, Sep 27). Scholarship as conversation. [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VILSLTnfKKsl.

Activity

Read the scenario below and complete the two tasks that follow.
Type your responses to each of the two tasks in the textbox in the LMS or in a Word document.

Scenario - Your research topic is college success, and your research question is "What are common characteristics of undergraduate college students who academically succeed?". You have identified the article "What sets college thrivers and divers apart? A contrast in study habits, attitudes, and mental health" by Beattie, Laliberte, and Leclerc, as a key article in your research. It was written in 2019. You decide to investigate its impact on the scholarly conversation of college success by researching backward and forward.

Task #1 - Research Backward (5 points)

      1. Go to your library's main search box [librarians enter URL here].
      2. Type the article's title, "What sets college thrivers and divers apart? A contrast in study habits, attitudes, and mental health" in the search box and search.
      3. Identify the article from the results, and open the document by clicking "View full text" or "Access full text" [librarian update as needed].
      4. Go to the References in the article. Identify two that spark your interest.

Responses (type in the textbox in the LMS or in a Word document)

      • List the titles and publication dates of the two resources that catch your attention.
      • Provide a brief explanation about why each one initially sparked your interest in the scholarly conversation about college success.

Task #2 - Research Forward (5 points)

      1. Go to Google Scholar, https://scholar.google.com/. [Librarians can change this out with a database if desired.]
      2. Type the article's title, "What sets college thrivers and divers apart? A contrast in study habits, attitudes, and mental health" in the search box and search.
      3. Identify the article from the results, and click the link "Cited by #".
      4. Browse the resources that have cited this work and identify 2 of interest.

Responses (type in the textbox in the LMS or in a Word document)

      • List the titles and publication dates of the two resources that catch your attention.
      • Provide a brief explanation about why each one initially sparked your interest in the scholarly conversation about college success.

Quiz

See the Google doc here for quiz questions and answers. Please note, this document is stored on the PALNI team drive and is only accessible to those who work in a PALNI school.