Despite not having been a crack-of-noon riser as a teenager, even I could have told the radio journalist that. (And, in an admittedly sassy moment, I let her know my mind; but who was to hear except for my carpool companions?) To be fair, the journalist, Allison Aubrey, was reporting on a national petition started by a grassroots organization to promote legislation that would prevent public schools from starting before 8 a.m. In the NPR news story, she mentioned a number of polls and a single study carried out by an interviewee, Dr. Judith Owens, who directs the Sleep Medicine Clinic at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
As seasoned researchers know, and as undergraduates are beginning to appreciate, what appears to be “common knowledge” is often fine fodder for a literature review or research project. Is there actually enough evidence at this point to support such a petition?
Assignments often specify a requirement of a certain number of scholarly research articles, making it easy to bypass or simply overlook excellent resources such as this December’s feature, the online version of the Encyclopedia of Adolescence, published by Elsevier’s Academic Press. Subject-specific encyclopedias like this one often provide an excellent springboard to the background of research in a field. A simple search for the term “sleep” results in 24 articles from the encyclopedia, ranging from “Adolescent Sleep”, to “Sleep Patterns and Challenges,” to “Adolescent Driving Behavior: A Developmental Challenge.”
In addition to outlining key concepts and the direction of research, each article provides references to additional scholarly work as well as relevant, authoritative websites. Armed with this background knowledge, a student researcher can apply her new understanding to more efficiently seeking and interpreting relevant, scholarly research articles.
Next time you embark on a new research adventure – or need supporting evidence for a one-sided argument with a radio journalist – consider one of Andersen Library’s many print and online subject-specific encyclopedias as your jumping off point.