I had a rude awakening this week when I was asked by a colleague to identify and share research that could help guide a project she was working on. A funny thing happened… I knew what theory and research would advise about the issue, but putting my hands on a specific theory or piece of research proved much more difficult.
I found myself browsing my bookshelf and searching my EndNotes citations and wondering… Where did I read that? Which theorist had that model? Who did that research? As I slowly uncovered some of what I was looking for, I realized that in “knowing” what theory and research would advise, I was extrapolating from a wide range of material. There was no “killer” piece that I could point to as having the perfect perspective. In the end, I lucked out because my colleague really just needed me to give her advice based on my knowledge base and experience, not to support it with specific justification.
It got me thinking about the challenges of scholarly practice (a.k.a. evidence-based practice). On the one hand, good for me that I’ve paid enough attention that I knew what might be helpful for my colleague’s situation. On the other hand, I would have been hard-pressed to name my sources. I have a terrible memory for names and other details (inherited from my mother, I’m sure, who had six children and never got our names right on the first try).
I really need to have good system for recording some of my favorite references and compiling good models that can guide practice. I’ve frequently thought about this, and have kept up some good practices, like recording EndNote citations, tagging material to my Delicious account, keeping a file of my favorite models, and the like. I’m also thinking that I’d like to cast my net a little wider, expanding beyond the academic publications and thought-leader blogs that I currently frequent.
I’m thinking that’s a pretty good new year’s resolution. I’m going to be taking a look at material on connectivism, personal learning environments, and personal knowledge management for advice on this (at least I know where to find resources on those concepts!) Please share your thoughts on specific record-keeping techniques as well as favorite academic journals in learning and development.