Students in application degrees, such as the Master of Science (MS) in Cybersecurity program, tend to forget that the program at its heart is still an academic program. What does this mean? This means that the student is responsible for providing authoritative works. Some say at this point but that’s not how the industry does it. I have been writing reports for my Law Enforcement department for years without needing to cite anyone. Why should I start now? Simple the College/University is not your workplace. Academia requires a higher level of authority than just your word.
In academia work is valid or authoritative if it has been peer reviewed. Peer reviewed simply means that your peers in the discipline or industry you work in have read your work and agreed that the work is sound and based on current doctrine. When something has been accepted in academia it comes with validation. People can now cite your work in their own work. It is this system of peer review that keeps speculation, opinions and marketing out of academia. The resulting document is grounded and based in referenced and researched work.
This blog for example and the two books that I have authored are not Peer Reviewed works. The books I wrote discussed principles and practices of digital investigations. I chose products to highlight in the book that I had used in the past. Not because they were the best or most widely used but because I used them. The principals that were written about came from practical experience and the documents that covered the subject. A complete literature review was not conducted to find opposing opinions. My books give my opinion and thoughts. This is not a practical research method as it does not provide a complete picture of the subject it is a book not a research paper. Blogs and books also tend to be very broad in scope, whereas research work is narrowly focused on a point. I am currently in pursuit of my doctorate and I am also (re)learning this concept of finding the focused point and writing a lot about it. This is what academic research is. When you are done you will add to the academic literature that will be used by future researchers.
The Difference with Text Books
What about textbooks - these must be academic as we use them to teach. Unfortunately, they are not. Textbooks do not add to the academic literature they simply restate research in different forms so that non researchers understand a concept. The researcher does the work and develops the theorems, while textbooks simply explain them. Textbooks are not empirical in nature. A book may have a technical editor to ensure that the technology being presented is correct. Your application of the theorems or practices is not validated by the book company, as that is not their job. The textbook does not go through the peer review process for acceptance. One may ask why write a textbook then? The simple answer is Money. Authors write books for recognition to entertain or make a point. Professor Hosmer calls his book an $80.00 business card. That is very accurate.
Understanding academic literature is very important for the MS Cybersecurity student. Your next step in your educational path could be your doctorate! So if you do not learn to research now, you will be at an even greater disadvantage when you enter the next level.