At Scholarcy, we’ve been talking to students at all stages of learning to find out what kind of challenges they face when it comes to reading and understanding academic literature as well as writing their own essays or theses. This week, we spoke to Xiran Li, an engineering student in China, to find out how he’s been using Scholarcy as part of a final year project that involved reading and applying a large volume of research literature.
I am an Electrical engineering student and before our graduation, we were asked to create a design project under the supervision of a professor. The aim of this project was to define an engineering problem and then find solutions using corresponding simulation tools and investigations. My objective at that time was to further optimize a design component of an artificial muscle. To create the structure for our work, our professor recommended important reference papers, but if you want to produce something really creative, reading extra research articles is definitely necessary which is something I found difficult.
What were some of the research challenges were you experiencing?
Although I had spent 4 years studying my major, I did not have much experience reading published papers. I don’t know how students study for their major in other universities or countries, but in my school, we only learn from textbooks, and then practice by solving exercises set by professors or in books. We do not read the latest papers to learn about advanced topics or gain more specialist knowledge. So, honestly, it was my first time reading academic research papers for my design project.
Additionally, my first language is not English. Despite having learnt English for several years, I only had experience of reading some short, simple articles instead of academic papers. However, our professor insisted that we have to reference articles from top journals such as SCI, whose papers are all published in English. As a result, it was really tough for me to read and filter my referenced articles.
For nearly every paper, I lost my motivation after only reading the abstract, let alone finding out any useful information from the paper.
How did you find out about Scholarcy?
It was about one week after I started my design project, one of my peers told me that there is an application called Scholarcy that he was using for his project. He showed me the website and how to summarise a paper using your technology. After just a few seconds, I was surprised to see that all the important information in the paper I uploaded had been highlighted.
I could also gain a quick understanding of the paper just by glancing at the key terms highlighted at the top of the summary. Research into a single topic can develop in many directions, but by looking through these key terms, I could quickly discard unrelated papers.
Sometimes when reading the literature, I come across terms that I’m unfamiliar with. Using Scholarcy, all I needed to do was to click on the term, and I would be transferred to the corresponding definition in Wikipedia, which makes it much easier to understand the method in the paper and saves me a lot of time! To double-check, I sent a paper I had read to another person on my course and asked him to upload the same paper to Scholarcy. He confirmed that the summary was really accurate, saying:
I spent at least 20 minutes to get the main point of that paper by reading it from scratch, but Scholarcy helped me to get a really good grasp of the paper in just a few minutes.
Were there any other features of Scholarcy that helped you with your project?
Yes, what I found really useful was that I could access the full text of every cited paper. Every link of the cited paper was shown in the results, and I could even export all of the references to a Word file so that I could view or share these references whenever I wanted. I tried to find cited papers before, but most of the time I couldn’t find what I needed in my local search engine.
With the help of Scholarcy, I quickly built a structure for my design project. By successfully applying some advanced theories into my project, I got an excellent grade at the end of the semester. So, I want to let you know that you are working on a great invention, and there are lots of people backing you up. Keep going! I have also introduced Scholarcy to my friends!