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Academic papers haven’t changed (much!), but the way you read them should!

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Oliver Back
5 min read

Academic papers haven’t changed, but the way you read them should!

Since the first article was published on January 5th, 1665, there have been over 100 million academic articles published. There were over 5 million alone in 2022! Talk about information overload!

Over the last 100 years, the way in which research is conducted has undergone massive changes. The invention of the computer has revolutionised both research and teaching practices. In this time, the structure and way in which articles are written hasn’t really changed, but why? Many feel that the format is outdated and only makes it harder for readers to digest complex information.

What are the barriers to knowledge for newer readers?

Reading research papers can be a daunting task for many, even those with a good grounding in their subject. Dense walls of text can be overwhelming, and this may put students off from even starting their reading list.

Academic journals often use ‘standard’ fonts, which many people can find difficult to read. Articles in PDF format also make it hard for readers to adjust the text - they are essentially ‘locked in’ to one font style, size, and format. This presents difficulties for readers who prefer, or even require a more accessible font, and also for researchers who need to constantly switch between sections and sub-sections of the article to further their understanding.

Why are academic texts so hard to read?

Academic journals are written in such a specific way, which means the content should only be interpreted in one very specific way. Which is great in theory, this means less misinterpretation, right?

Newer researchers, students, and novices are unlikely to be able to interpret this complex language easily, and identify the key takeaways from any given article.

This leads to a barrier to entry that many can’t overcome on their own.

Just because articles haven’t changed, doesn’t mean the way you read them can’t!

Assistive technology (AT) tools have been developed for many different purposes, reading academic text being just one. At this point, you’ve probably heard of large language models (LLMs), and if you haven’t you’ll certainly have heard of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The growing use of AI in Assistive Technology products has led to advances in the way that we can approach and understand academic articles.

But what does this mean for me?

Assistive technology tools like Scholarcy set out to democratise knowledge. Harnessing the power of LLMs and AI, Scholarcy cleverly restructures the article, and presents it in bite-sized sections, with key facts and findings highlighted, which enables any reader, anyone to comfortably read and understand any academic article.

How does Scholarcy keep up with the latest innovations?

The team at Scholarcy analyses the latest literature to understand the best ways to present complex information to a variety of readers.

That’s why we’re making some changes to the way your flashcards are presented.

Scholarcy’s flashcards are designed to incrementally reveal more information, so readers can gradually build their knowledge of a subject, without getting stuck, or lost in a wall of text.

Scholarcy also shows readers exactly how an article fits into the wider field of research with its research comparison feature. From here you’ll learn exactly how an article has considered previous work, how it builds on or differs from other articles, and any results that it confirms or contrasts.

Why Scholarcy’s new flashcard design will help you read and learn more confidently

Scholarcy’s new flashcards follow a structured summary format, which helps readers to accurately assess and understand the article they are reading. Key facts and findings are progressively revealed, so readers can work through the text at their own pace whilst more easily assimilating new knowledge.

The flashcard structure and improved summary supports quickly screening an article by bringing the important points and key facts straight to the reader's attention. In-depth analysis has also been improved, with the new research quality, and research comparison sections. This will help students and researchers alike to determine the value and impact of any article.

How do I get the new updated flashcards?

All you have to do is sign into your Scholarcy Library account in July, and the updates will be ready and waiting for you! You’ll find more information in the Scholarcy Library app.