Scholarly communities, what are they? What differentiates one scholarly community from another? How do you become a part of a scholarly community? These are all questions that have arisen out of my MA in Learning and Technologies, Introduction to Research course. My aim is to attempt to answer these questions with the knowledge I have gained so far. To put it simply, a scholarly community is a group of scholars who share the same professional interest(s). Often, it is a group of scholars who come from the same or similar occupational background or industry. It was determined in a team discussion on scholarly communities that their main goal is to share knowledge within that given community and to further contribute to the growth of wisdom that currently exists (S. Castilla, K. Forgay, M. Johnson, K. Manorek, D. Peros, personal communication, July 27, 2016). For instance a researcher and an academic may exist within the same scholarly community, but may often take away or contribute slightly different pieces of information. The tie that binds them is the professional topic of interest. Another way to understand scholarly communities is to break it down to one specific occupation. Bentz and Shapiro (1998) state, “The majority of researchers work within the culture of inquiry of quantitative and behavioral science” (p.83). For example, researchers who are interested in applying quantitative research methods and interpret their data through a lens of technology acceptance commonly belong to the same scholarly community. These researchers are all drawn to research projects that fall under the umbrella of technology and learning and would likely use very similar methods to approach the research project. On the contrary, not all researchers necessarily belong to the same scholarly community. Researchers who approach their research from different cultures of inquiry may apply different methodologies and view their data through different theoretical frameworks, thus the only commonality is that fact that they are researchers.
What differentiates one scholarly community from another? Scholarly communities are brought together through similar goals and interests. An academic health journal that specializes in the latest trends in medical equipment for example may attract a variety of doctors from different fields, nurses and researchers. All of these scholars would be drawn to the same topic. Again each of them may contribute or take away different information from the journal, but the key here is that they all share the same interest. Their intentions and offerings would all contribute to the advancement of knowledge within that specialized health community. A similar group of scholars who also share an interest in health, but focus on holistic remedies and shy away medical technologies would belong to a different scholarly community. I have shared my understanding of scholarly communities, so you still want to know how to become a part of a scholarly community, right? I would suggest follow your interests and see where they lead. Talk to scholars in your field and see what they are talking about. Before you know it, you’ll be immersed in one.
Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Retrieved from the Ebscohost e-book database.