Current and former University of Minnesota students are hoping to create a “SparkNotes” for scholarly articles with a new website.
Bibliate is a subscription-based online tool that rehashes and summarizes articles from the subjects of anthropology, biology, history, political science and psychology. Founded by 2018 University alumnus Andrew Swisher, the company launched on Jan. 14 with the help of fellow students.
Swisher came up with the idea after he had difficulty grasping lengthy articles assigned in class. He later surveyed students on scholarly materials and found that a majority of students felt the same way.
“There weren’t enough resources out there that help people understand the really important information that comes from these things,” Swisher said. “I just took it upon myself.”
A group of undergraduate and graduate students nationwide work remotely to summarize the articles. More than 40 summaries are currently available, but Swisher aims to have at least 500 more ready by the end of the year. Swisher also hopes to increase the number of subjects Bibliate offers.
The summaries provide an overview of the article, an analysis of diagrams or visuals, a report of key takeaways and a critical thinking section that highlights the significance of the article. Each summary is no more than five pages in length.
“We’re not a substitute, we’re a supplement,” Swisher said. “We are giving students and the general public more tools and arsenal to understand your [researchers'] content.”
Swisher also said Bibliate can also help researchers translate content for public consumption.
Last November, Bibliate won the BizPitch contest, a competition where University undergraduate students present new business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs and investors in 90 seconds. Bibliate was awarded the $1,000 grand prize.
Third-year student Erik Lindquist joined as operations manager for Bibliate last fall. Lindquist helps identify articles for content creators to simplify.
“When there’s so much information like that, and if you’re just reading it without taking notes … you’re not going to take away any of those key points,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist said he had previously struggled to finish reading scholarly articles assigned in his classes. He hopes Bibliate will help students better comprehend assigned material.
Nick Saxton, a fourth-year student studying English and theater, said Bibliate could be a useful tool for students who rely on scholarly articles to write papers. Saxton said saturation of scholarly articles have made it challenging for him to find which ones to use as a reference.
“There are thousands of articles,” said Saxton. “It would be interesting to see how the business source would be able to pinpoint which ones it would summarize.”
Graduate research assistant Michaela Degrande said scholarly articles are difficult to process at times.
“It’s probably a lot less time consuming to be able to just grab from the articles and figure out what they’re saying pretty quickly,” Degrande said.