Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why UT Tyler Students Should Embrace Academic Literature

While trying to find a topic for this blog post, I was inspired by my co-worker Michael's post, “Habits, Practicing Self-Control, and Reading Lists,” in which he discusses his use of reading lists and their implications on time management and creating good habits. While reading this entry on the UT Tyler Student Blog, I realized that my blog post could discuss what makes up my personal reading list: academic literature. 
     Now, before I sound too pretentious to the readers of this student blog, let me clarify what academic literature really is, and discuss why it would be relevant to an undergraduate or graduate student.
  Academic literature is the publishing of academic research and scholarship, generally found in several forms, such as books, academic thesis, conference papers, journal articles, and many others.  The levels of academic merit for the literature generate from the peer review that qualifies it for publication.
It is there to help you, not to frighten you.
     Depending on your major when you take part in higher education, your field of study will have varying subjects for literature.  For example, as a political science major, I read a large amount of literature from authors such as Kenneth Waltz, Joseph Stiglitz, Scott Sagan, and many others, because they write about subjects that interest me, such as nuclear proliferation, neoliberalism and globalization, the concept of the nation-state, all of which fall under my area of study during my undergraduate career. 
     Along with general interest, I also apply this research and literature to my academic endeavors, both through major-specific classes, as well as with competitive debate.  A large amount of my speech communication and political science courses require some form of research output or end-of-semester paper in order to pass, and the preliminary research for my topics will come from this literature. Furthermore, I cite these sources within my work to give my analysis more depth, and overall improve my assignment.
     For debate, many of the positions Carver and I take with our arguments during competition derive from this type of academic literature. For example, we often discuss countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, and their potential threat to the international community. Using literature that discuss the concept of nuclear proliferation and stability of nations in a crisis similar to theirs, Carver and I are able to formulate arguments and posit their true implications for the international community, making our chances of winning even higher.
     You might be asking yourself, “Is any of this relevant if I do not want to pursue an academic career, or take part in competitive debate?” If you are a college student, undergrad or graduate, this type of literature could be highly beneficial for classes and research in your field. The writing style and formatting patterns of academic literature can have an osmosis-like effect on the reader. I know personally, when I started reading academic literature, my writing improved drastically. Things like word economy, style, formatting, and other factors of writing can be fine-tuned when you read more of this type of literature.
     Not only does your writing improve, but also there is a guarantee that your grades and papers for classes would improve. Often there are professors who complain that students do not understand the research process, citation procedures, and other steps for writing college-level papers. By reading academic literature more often, this process becomes clearer, as the student will have a better understanding of the expectations that professors hold. Along with that, if you are interesting in graduate school or acquiring a doctorate in your field, it is always good to have a working knowledge of academic literature, because it is crucial for writing a graduate thesis or doctorate level dissertation. By reading academic literature, the higher education endeavor only becomes easier.
     For UT Tyler students, there is a large amount of academic literature available to anyone interested. All of this literature can be found either at the UT Tyler Library online resource, or at the actual location on campus.  For the online source, there is a simple search process on the Library Home Page for whatever you are looking for, as well as specific search engines and journals at the bottom of the page for a more specific search process. My personal favorite search engine is EBSCO, which has tens of thousands of sources of academic research that cover a plethora of different topics. All of these resources are free to enrolled UT Tyler students, making it an invaluable resource to those who want to further their academic ability.  If you ever need help finding a specific source, ask one of our talented librarians!  They get paid to answer those questions.
Need some information or resources for a lab report?  Are you lacking citations for that tricky term paper?  Search EBSCO and see what you find!
     Whether it is a simple assignment in need of more information for credibility, or because you have a genuine interest in a certain field of study, academic literature should not be feared, it should be embraced! 

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