“EFD 500 is your first graduate class?” I asked the Two Ashleys in disbelief.
EFD 500 (Research in Education) is one of the most challenging education graduate courses. It is also the course that brings me, as a librarian, in contact with many of our graduate education students because much of the course involves locating the scholarly, research-based articles students must use to write lengthy literature reviews. Many of the students I have assisted over the years have told me that they waited to take the class until the end of their graduate course work, admitting incredible research anxiety and paralyzing fear.
However, brave students Ashley Kinder and Ashley McCollum have looked the EFD 500 monster in the syllabus face and said “bring it on!” You heard correct. The Two Ashleys, both working on their Masters in Elementary Education, decided to sign up for Dr. Staub’s EFD 500 class at the beginning of their course work. Every day this week, Ms. Kinder and Ms. McCollum have been hard at work in the library typing vigorously on their laptops with their multitude of research articles sprawled out all over the library carrels. When I leave for lunch, I wave goodbye to the Two Ashleys. When I come back from lunch, I wave hello to the Two Ashleys. When I leave work, I wave goodbye to them. When I come into work, I wave hello to them. It’s been a while since I have seen students in the library demonstrating such persistence and dedication to their studies, and it is a welcome sight on my floor.
I asked Ms. Kinder and Ms. McCollum why they decided to take the EFD 500 class first in their graduate work. Ms. McCollum told me she was advised by Dr. Lowry to take the class. Plus, she wanted to “get it out of the way.” Ms. Kinder was talked into taking the course by Dr. Staubs who told her the class was “very manageable.” I thought I detected a “Hmmph!” expression on Ms. Kinder’s face, but it was probably my imagination. Ms. Kinder said she had no idea what the class entailed and how much work was required.
When I asked the Two Ashleys what they thought were some of the greatest challenges about the EFD 500 class their top concern was how to avoid plagiarism. Since the majority of their work involves summarizing the research studies of other authors for their literature reviews, they both expressed concern over how to avoid plagiarism when expressing the ideas of other authors, writing indirect quotes, and paraphrasing. Furthermore, they had been exposed to the MLA style of writing during their undergraduate careers. Now they were having to learn how to cite sources and write their papers in APA style (apparently Dr. Staubs is a big stickler when it comes to APA citation).
Another big challenge Ms. Kinder and Ms. McCollum encountered was finding enough research articles relevant to their topics. Both experienced situations in which there was not enough research conducted on their specific topic of research. They had to learn how to broaden their search in the databases in order to find enough related research. This was particularly challenging because it meant having to weed out a lot of irrelevant research and also involved having to brainstorm for different key words and think outside the box in order to locate relevant studies.
Ms. McCollum discussed the challenge of writing a literature review without simply summarizing the research studies. Reading the articles, synthesizing them, and trying to find a way to present the studies in a meaningful manner involves a lot of trial and error.
When asked if they have any advice for students just beginning their graduate work in education, Ms. Kinder and Ms. McCollum both agreed that, even though the course is a lot of work, it’s a good idea to take it first. They feel that taking this class will be of value to them in future graduate courses, as it familiarized them with APA style and the language and writing style used in scholarly education research.
When I asked if they were going to save their research, perhaps to develop into possible dissertations in the future, they both gave me exasperated looks and told me to ask them that question a few months from now. Right now they just want to conclude their papers. After tackling this class, Ms. Kinder and Ms. McCollum plan to celebrate their accomplishments at the beach. Bon Voyage, Ms. Kinder and Ms. McCollum! You’re almost there!
P.S. While you’re at the beach, don’t forget to send a postcard to the 5th floor. L.C.