Monday, January 26, 2004

Academic Research FAILS - 248 LexiLine Journal

[This is a cross-posting from my LawPundit site at
since the subject matter crosses ALL academic disciplines.]

Research Skills in Academia FAIL according to Berkeley study.

Berkeley studies have confirmed what I have known and argued for
years as a teacher of "legal research" - that very few people out
there in academia have learned how to do research properly, and this
includes the professors, where failing research skills are often
mirrored in the incompleteness or even falsity of their articles in
peer-reviewed journals.

We have been battling against this for years. See, and

The Law Pundit was lucky in his younger days on this score, laboring
as a research assistant for professors throughout undergraduate and
law school days and knowing the library inside and out.

In her article of January 21, 2004, Wendy Edelstein of the UC
Berkeley News in "Improving undergraduate research skills" - see -
writes about some remarkable findings at Berkeley:

"[I]n a five-year survey of information-literacy competency
conducted by Berkeley's Teaching Library in the 1990s ...results
indicated that graduating Berkeley seniors were perplexed by
elementary tasks involving organizing and accessing information.
More specifically, the survey found, the median result in
information-literacy competency among the surveyed seniors was a
failing score."

Worse, in a follow-up study, professors themselves were tested and
found that they were equally inept in research:

"Last summer, a number of Berkeley professors from a variety of
disciplines were asked to research a group of Jewish chicken farmers
in Petaluma, a topic well outside their respective academic
purviews. Much like students might, they became overwhelmed, turning
to databases they regularly use (and even, it can now be told, to
Google) for help."

Note that the study - in finding that professors when overwhelmed,
turn to known resources - mirrors what we have found to be rampant
in academia. When the mainstream is confronted with NEW ideas
outside of what they think they know, they retreat to old well-
trodden paths and ignore the new material. This is NOT science.

Worse than even that, in the course of these studies it was
"The humanities faculty were thrilled to learn that their teaching
goals weren't different from those of their counterparts in the
sciences," Tollefson continued. 'They both prefer teaching concepts
over facts.'"

We agree that it is more fun to teach "concepts", but a review of
the humanities in particular shows that they have often FORGOTTEN
the facts. Each academic teaches his or her "concepts" - which is
fine - but those concepts must be checked and researched AGAINST the
facts and abandoned if the facts do not agree with the concepts.
Many academics still have not learned this lesson.

To the credit of the Berkeley professors above, they subsequently
changed their teaching to deal with the weaknesses found in the

Now, what about all the other academics out there who do not now
that they have these weaknesses and are passing them on to new
generations of academics? We speak here particularly about academic
disciplines outside of law.

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