Formal channels involve third parties with an element of judgment

Formal scientific communication has four major channels - professional conference presentations, personal journal libraries, electronic journals, and research report reference lists. Formal channels of communication all insert an element of judgment into the system. To enter information into them, researchers must follow explicit rules that restrict the kind or quality of information that is admitted into the system. The classic example of a formal communication channel is an article published in a refereed scientific journal. It must follow specific requirements, and both editors and reviewers judge its acceptability.

Although their selection criteria for presentations are sometimes less strict than that required for journal publication, the conferences periodically held by professional societies are also formal communication, because they accept only presentations structured to their topic area. For information to enter the system, the researcher must be a member of the society and be aware of the meeting, and the research generally must pass at least a weak peer review.

Currently, many journals appear in both paper and electronic forms. However, due to the storage capacity and favorable economics of computer technology, experts predict a future switch to solely electronic editions (Peek and Newby, 1996; Walker, 1998). As a whole, electronic journals straddle the world between informal and formal communication channels. Some evaluate submitted articles; others do not. In evaluating electronic articles, this is important information to have.

Your research: the big picture

A book like this one is not the place for a detailed procedural catalog of all the productive ways of doing research. Conducting a research study is undeniably a big job. Presumably you are being guided through that task by various mentors. However, some guidelines can always be useful, even if only as reminders.

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