Understanding the Structure of "the Literature"

Understanding "The Literature" of a Discipline

Assignment: What does "the literature" of a discipline look like? What comprises it? Investigate the production and dissemination of information in a given discipline. How is the knowledge produced? By whom? In which media is it presented/communicated? What is the publishing cycle? How important is informal communication in the field?

Purpose: Demystifies the elusive term "the literature"

Examining a Classical Work

Assignment: Explore through book reviews, biographical information, and citation indexes how and why a work becomes a "classic." What effect does a classical work have on a discipline?

Purpose: Demonstrates the evolution of ideas, and identifies factors which make a work "important".

Following Research Trends

Assignment: Look at a periodical index [or yearbook, handbook, etc.] at 10 year intervals.

Purpose: Illustrates the explosion of research, and how its issues, content and methods change.

Tracking an Author or a "Classic" Paper through a Citation Index

Assignment: Trace an important paper through a citation index. What does it mean to be "cited"? How important is it that a scholar be cited?

Purpose: Teaches the mechanics of using a citation index, and introduces students to the interconnectedness of the scholarly network. Shows how ideas percolate, disseminate, accumulate, and are refined.

Tracing a Scholar's Career

Assignment: Students choose (or are assigned) a scholar/researcher. Explore that person's career and ideas by locating biographical information, preparing a bibliography of his/her writings, analysing the reaction of the scholarly community to the researcher's work, and examining the scholarly network in which s/he works.

Purpose: Introduces students to the use of biographical and bibliographical tools, and exposes them to examples of scholarly dialogue.

Identifying Major Journals

Assignment: How many journals are published in a given field? Identify [with professor's help] journals "basic" to the discipline. Compare and contrast them. Analyse their content, tone, audience and impact.

Purpose: Emphasizes the importance of journal literature. Makes the point that journals differ in approach and perspective.

Understanding Primary Sources

Assignment: Compare primary and secondary sources on the same topic.

Purpose: Teaches students to differentiate between primary/secondary sources in a discipline. Shows when and why to use each.