June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
New Engineering Educators
11.850.1 - 11.850.8
Journal Club: A Forum to Encourage Graduate and Undergraduate Research Students to Critically Review the Literature
This contribution outlines a strategy that the author has used to counteract literature lethargy and train beginning researchers how to efficiently learn from and critique articles. Journal Club is a weekly meeting with all members of the research group where a research article related to each student’s project is discussed by the entire research group. Due to multiple projects in the lab, each researcher contributes to discussions of articles tangentially related to their own research; this is a long-term benefit because it increases the breadth of each individual’s knowledge. The discussion questions strive to increase the depth of knowledge in each topic. Lastly, the student involvement in discussions teaches critical thinking and aids in developing foresight to more effectively plan experiments. Outcomes of the Journal Club activity have been increased student knowledge of the literature, decreased apprehension in younger students toward understanding technical publications, and a slight increase in productivity towards publication goals within the group. Including this weekly meeting as an independent study course for credit also encourages all students to read the articles prior to the meeting and enhances participation in group discussions.
New faculty encounter many challenges as they strive to set up their research lab and get a research group started. Keeping abreast of the literature sometimes falls by the wayside in- between preparing for classes, ordering equipment, teaching laboratory procedures to students, grading, scholarly writing, writing proposals, etc. As many of us know, familiarity with current literature is crucial to conducting sound research. While the new faculty member may have periodic cramming sessions with the literature prior to submitting a proposal or other scholarly writing, their researchers in the lab can overlook this important component of conducting sound research.
Regular, organized meetings focused only on reading and discussing articles in the literature can help overcome this literature lethargy, strengthen the education of students, and bolster the quality of research conducted in the lab group. Involving undergraduate students in literature critiques is not a new concept and has been found to be beneficial . The involvement of undergraduates in a literature review seminar has the added benefit of encouraging these students to pursue graduate studies in engineering . Advice on conducting graduate seminars is available in “The New Professor’s Handbook” where the authors assert that, “a seminar program can go a long way in helping graduate students acquire the knowledge and skills to become independent researchers” . More specifically, research skills that can be obtained via a seminar program include: • “identify important research questions and specific hypotheses to be tested.” • “identify the experimental and theoretical research methods used to test the hypotheses.” • “apply the methods and interpret the results.” • “communicate the results orally and in writing” 
Minerick, A. (2006, June), Journal Club: A Forum To Encourage Graduate And Undergraduate Research Students To Critically Review The Literature Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1126
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