Paywalls, and how to see through them

DSCN8088Here are the hoops we – academics, teacher educators, pre-service teachers, students – regularly jump through to get access to the research publications we need to do our jobs.  Suppose we find an article that we think is relevant to our work.

  1.  First step is to check our university library website to see whether we are subscribed to the journal.  Type the journal name in the search box (not the article name) and see what comes up.  It’s much more likely that we’re not subscribed, but it changes all the time so I have given up trying to keep track. If we are subscribed to the right journal with the right date range, then we’re good to go as long as we have our university login and password.
  2. Failing that, the official route is to ask for an interlibrary loan (prêt interbibliothèque, PIB).  You have to fill out a form, probably in person,  pay maybe 4 or 5 euros perhaps – and they get you a paper version in a finite time.  Our research lab pays for this, but I find the whole process time consuming.
  3. Instead, you can search for the article (and/or the authors) on  Maybe the authors have put a PDF somewhere.  You can also check for them on ResearchGate and since many journals allow authors to self-archive. You might have to sign up yourself, but you may as well: keeps your online profile looking professional 🙂
  4. E-mail the author saying you’re interested in their work because you’re working on something similar, your institution is not subscribed to the journal, and could they send you a PDF.  Most journals allows authors to use their own articles for teaching, presenting, and collaboration with other researchers. This kind of direct request works about 50% of the time because many people are basically nice, we’re all in the same boat (and of course #citeme).

Any further steps are unfit for publication, and are time-consuming in themselves (chronophage, the French call it).  On the plus side, step 4 can lead to very rewarding connections and exchanges: this morning someone in New Zealand sent me their paper within three minutes of receiving my e-mail.  Now that’s something to celebracite.


How to set up an information gap

Very clear instructions for organising information gap activities in the language classroom, including the all-important feedback phase at the end.

Sandy Millin

Information gap set up reminder

What do you mean, you don’t understand? 😉 The face you’re pulling right now is the one which the students will show you if you attempt to set up a ‘complicated’ speaking activity and the instructions go wrong. Information gaps are activities which can work brilliantly if you set them up efficiently, and fall completely flat if you don’t.

Before we go any further, what exactly is an information gap?

An information gap task is a technique in language teaching where students are missing information necessary to complete a task or solve a problem, and must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps. It is often used in communicative language teaching and task-based language learning.


They’re very common in coursebooks, and are often used to practise specific language points at the ‘freer practice’ stage of a lesson, but they can easily be used for fluency practice…

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