How the Student Choice Awards (SCA’s) were implemented

In this blog I share the process by which we arrived at the SCA “winners”, as described in the post “Introducing the first Action Research student choice awards”. In retrospect, the process included four major moments:

1) Bringing the key words to the students;
2) Narrowing to “my favorite” 5 and 3 articles;
3) From 3 to 2—Pitching our favorites and writing two blogs; and,
4) Editing and naming winners.

I now briefly explain each moment, in the hope other classes might use or adapt this process with their students!

Bringing the key words to the students

Adopting the idea of awards implied that a fair process would need to exist so that all articles over a given time period would be given equal chance of “being discovered” by each student. The traditional search process of surfing the journal, or using key words to find articles through a database, would not allow all students to look through all articles, and would require students to know what they were looking for in advance (i.e. to start with keywords). We needed to find a way to bring the keywords to the students instead, and to allow them to scan through all articles in a chosen time period.

To do so, I requested and received from SAGE an excel version of the database of all ARJ articles, including article name, abstract, author(s), keywords, and month/year/volume. Although ARJ has been in circulation since 2003, indexing only goes back as far as 2008, so the database I received is from 2008-present.

I chose to limit the database to 2012-present (June 2017, issue 2). This was in part to start with a manageable number of articles, but also to utilize the most up-date articles. I then removed all introductory chapters to special issues and all editorial material in general. This brought us to a total of 128 “typical” articles. It is important to note that “online first” articles which were not yet published in the print version of the journal were not included in the initial database sent to me. I sorted the articles in reverse alphabetical order by title to randomize their order (they were listed chronologically in the database), and then presented all 128 in a table with title, keywords and a column to indicate interest (see table 1 below for an example of how the table appeared).

Table 1: Section of the table of 128 articles shared with students

Student Choice Awards

Narrowing to “my favorite” 5 and 3 articles

I then asked each student to read through the entire set of 128 articles in the table, highlighting articles that resonate with her/him (hence the last column of table 1). I then asked each to follow these steps:

1) Select 5 articles each that very strongly appeal to you, placing each article title in column 1 of table 2 (“My top 5”). In the second column add up to a short paragraph explaining why the article resonated with you.

Table 2: My top 5

Student Choice Awards

2) Narrow the list down to your top three. Download and read the three you chose.
3) Fill out table 3 for each of the three articles you read. Place them in order starting with your favorite of the three

Table 3: My top 3

Student Choice Awards

From 3 to 2—Pitching our favorites and writing two blogs

We then went through a series of in-class iterations in which each student used their information from the last column of table 3 to “pitch” their favorite articles to each other. They then wrote two 250-300-word blog posts, one for each of their two finalists (which had been influenced by the pitches). I gave guidelines on how to write the blogs, emphasizing that each post should clearly address questions such as (provided to stimulate thinking only):

a) Why did I select this article?;
b) What messages from the article most resonate with me?;
c) Why—what does this say about who I am as a person, my (action) research interests, and/or my ways of knowing?;
d) Why might other PhD students be interested in this article?;
e) None of the above—any creative representation of ideas you have that was inspired by this article!

Editing and naming winners

We carried out two rounds of in-class editing on the full blogs, asked each student to select one of their two for the AR+ blog, and called these self-selected finalists the “winners”—i.e. the one article that most resonated with each of our students. The blogs then went through a final intensive editing process by me, and then final editing by AR+ editors.

I would be happy to share more detail on any or all of this with classes or projects that would be interested in reproducing or adapting this process. Please email me at if you have questions or comments.

View the Student Choice Awards

Alfredo Ortiz Aragόn