Review of the Literature on African American Male College Student Populations
The topic that is being investigated is underrepresented student populations, specifically students of color that identify as African American males. It is important to the field of Higher Education because we need to examine the trajectories of these students in regards to access to education, transition into college, retention, and graduation from college. Further, we need to examine the barriers African American male students face at different levels that affect their preparation for college, access and entry into college as well as their academic performance and outcomes. Many Higher Education Institutions are faced with the reality and need for an increase in student enrollment numbers of underrepresented student populations including males of color. I am interested in the topic because I identify as an African American student and understand that there are barriers to accessing Higher Education and actually succeeding in college. I would like to see an increase in student enrollment numbers of African American male students, specifically at Research One Institutions and PWIs. I would like to see this student population actually pursue their education, persevere through an academic program, and obtain a degree. Thus, it is important to examine literature and studies conducted around this student population that outline the trending challenges still faced by this group in today’s college environment, any initiatives or support services that have, or have the potential, of increasing retention and graduation rates of African American male students, and any related findings that will help us to promote academic achievement at the college level for this marginalized group.
Reviewing the literature, we find that there has been a lack of postsecondary success and need for developmental education at the college level for African American male college students. In the literature, Baber (2014) noted that “significant attention from academic scholars and public policy leaders” in researching and studying issues related to African American males and their educational experiences in various stages of transition into college. It is interesting that the majority of African American male students, in most cases, transition from high school to their local community college is at all. (Baber, 2014)
Over the last decade, federal policy makers have paid close attention to postsecondary attendance and completion rates due to concerns of skill development in the workforce in what we know as a global, knowledgebase economy. In fact, economists predict that by 2018 more than one half of all jobs in the United States will require workers to have a postsecondary degree. If there continues to be a college attainment trend for underrepresented student populations, the U.S. will have a shortage of workers that meet that degree requirement. (Baber, 2014)
Many of the studies conducted on African American Male students suggest that they are underprepared for college and in need of support programs throughout their transitional stages and college years. Research questions explored in this literature review include- what are the experiences of this student population? What barriers do they face to academic preparation and retention? What are the challenges facing African American males with postsecondary aspirations? What sources of support are most valuable as African American males make decision about attending postsecondary institutions? (Baber, 2014) What is needed for them to succeed and actually obtain college degrees at the same rate of other student populations? Ultimately, how do we respond to a student population that is increasingly diverse, underprepared, and unprepared? (Marbley, A. F., Bonner II, F. A., Williams, V. A., Morris, P., Ross, W., & Burley, H., 2013, P. 92)
As we review the literature, we see trends that show African American males are
academically unprepared for Predominately White Institutions. One
study shows how this trend with African American male students is an issue that starts with
gaps in educational attainment according to a report released in 2011 from the the Illinois State
Board of Higher Education (ISBHE) on underrepresented groups in Higher Education. The
report states that “racial/ethnic minority students remain underrepresented in Illinois colleges and
universities, with significant gaps in educational attainment (ISBHE, 2011).” (Baber, 2014) The
commonalities found in the literature for postsecondary success as it relates to student of color,
specifically, African American male college students, include encouragement for postsecondary
aspirations, assistance with navigating multiple pathways to success, and persisting through
stereotypes and perceived barriers.
In the study, Baber (2014) the purpose was to explore experiences in various stages
of transition to college for African American males. It targets high students who have aspirations
to attend college, but are not academically prepared. It looked at their transition from high school
to community college in the areas that they live and was part of a larger research project for the
Career and College Readiness Act in Illinois, which “seeks to aid student transition from
secondary to postsecondary education by reducing the need for remedial coursework upon entry
into college (Public Community College Act, 110 ILCS § 805, 2011) [and] supports intervention
strategies at seven community colleges in the state of Illinois, targeting high school juniors and
seniors with strong postsecondary aspirations but low standardized test scores in math and/or
English.” (Baber, 2014)
Considering the educational trends for African American males in education, a sub-study
was developed to focus on African American males enrolled in the program. Directly
engaged in the transition process, the perceptions of these students provide valuable insight to
scholarship on African American male experiences in education. They were the participants in
this sub-study, which was developed to focus specifically on their educational experience and
The participants of this study were African American males participating in CCR program/initiatives. (Baber, 2014) Participants also included African American male students
attending various types of community colleges. The college students that participated in the
study was from four different institutions which include College of Lake County (Grayslake,
IL); Moraine Valley Community College (Palos Hills, IL); Shawnee Community College (Ulin,
IL); and Southwestern Illinois College (Belleville, IL). (Baber, 2014)
This study looked at the educational experiences of African American males participating in CCR program initiatives, but also included a sub study of African American males participating in CCR program interventions. (Baber, 2014) This study was lead and conducted by researchers from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership.
The program coordinators identified African American male students through several
developmental models which allowed them to explore the experiences of those students to gain
their real life perspectives. There was a total of 17 African American male students ranging from
high school juniors to students who were entering their first semester at a community college.
Researchers used several developmental models to create the interview protocol for the study. It
encouraged open conversation for each participant and each interview conducted ranged from
twenty minutes to an hour. Each interview was conducted at a school site, transcribed verbatim,
and read more than once by researchers. (Baber, 2014)
Postsecondary success aspirations
It was found that all of the students participating in the study had postsecondary aspirations. The majority of them ultimately wanted to attend a four-year institution to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. Though, most of them would attend a community college right after graduation. The question we must ask ourselves, as academic professionals, is how can we ensure that underrepresented populations, specifically African American males, successfully transition into college and stay on track to pursue a Bachelor’s degree? Research shows that this group of students wants the same access into Higher Education, but unfortunately are not academically or culturally prepared to succeed at a Research One or PWI so they enter through a different tier.
In addition, it was found these students had support from family as well as school teachers, counselors, and mentors whom constantly encouraged them to pursue postsecondary aspirations. There was no question of if they could go to college, but the idea that they would go to college and next steps was preparing them for when they would go to college.
“For students participating in this project, promotion of college aspirations from family was often supplemented by support from a school teacher or administrator. This academic source of support was particularly valuable for students who discovered early passion for a particular skill or subject.” (Baber, 2014, P. 1102) This shows us that this group of students needs support services in order to maintain their goals to continue on to college. If we want to increase this student population, we must figure out how to connect to this group with the idea that they are going to college and will succeed. For academic professionals in Higher Education, this is a question that we must begin to ask ourselves, and figure out how to effectively reach this student population.
The findings from the study also revealed that “For students, having a teacher who demonstrates a strong belief in them as potential college students—through words or actions—is an important part of their aspirational development.” (Baber, 2014, P. 1102) Here, we see that affirmation for this student population is important so that they will not only hear that they can go to college, but believe they can go to college. In other literature the authors show that “social and cultural capital gained from students’ relationships and interactions with friends, family, faculty members, student affairs staff and college support services impacted their successful college outcomes.” (Sandoval-Lucero, E., Maes, J.B. & Klingsmith, L., 2014)
This group of students is seen to have postsecondary success aspirations when they are consistently receiving motivation, support, and encouragement from family, teachers, and even peer groups at the high school level. Higher education institutions should recognize that efforts to reach, and admit, this population will require a strategic approach that begins at the junior year in High School.
Postsecondary success barriers
Research shows that African American males often have challenges when trying to persist through stereotypes and perceived barriers to education and postsecondary success. Students interviewed in the study talked about their awareness of stereotypes that are associated specifically with African American males. It was found that “this awareness was rooted in direct experiences that portrayed their ethnicity and/or gender in a negative light; that separated them from less academically moti-vated peers; and that fed perceptions of unfair institutional practices that treated male students differently than other students.” (Baber, 2014, P. 1105) The findings showed that students actually experience negative attitudes and comments in academic settings that discouraged them and made them think they were not able to perform well academically. Some comments came from other students, of different ethnicities, that were performing well in the classroom and actually seemed to encourage the negative stereotypes. Those students in the CCR program, had other support to help them overcome the barrier of racial and ethnic stereotypes. Racial stereotypes too often play into the psyche of how African American males see themselves going to and graduating from college.
Further, African American males, need additional support to combat the perceived stereotypes and perceptions of them as future college students.
Unfortunately, African American students “are not only blocked by barriers of ethnicity, race, racism, language, socio-economic status, and other cultural barri- ers, but they are also blocked by the attitudes and perceptions of those who make key decisions regarding their matriculation (Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999; Cleveland, 2004; Morton 1992).” This means that leaders at colleges and universities have to be a part of the strategic approach to reach these students and be committed to ensuring they have access into higher education with limited, or no barriers that would otherwise prevent them from even aspiring to attend college, which is the first step in getting them on a college campus.
Postsecondary success pathways
“While students stressed the importance of multiple sources of aspirational support, there was also consistent mention of another type of support—assistance with navigating the postsecondary sys- tem.” (Baber, 2014, P. 1103) African American male students not only need support to be motivated to pursue postsecondary education, but they need support on how to navigate through admissions, financial aid, and even how to succeed in developmental courses their first semester and/or year. From the study, “it seemed critical for students to be provided both the knowledge of their current skill set and an opportunity to talk with administrators/instructors about the path they needed to take to move beyond developmental courses.” (Baber, 2014, P. 1104) This is significant when we think about recruiting and retaining African American male students to college. Support services are a necessity to ensure they can complete the developmental courses and know what classes to take after completion to reach their educational goals.
It was also found that students have the perception that college is expensive. Findings from the study concluded many students felt college costs too much and this further suggests that “students need more information about the price of attendance, including access to federal and state grants, as well as assistance with calculating a cost/benefit analysis of a postsecondary education.” (Baber, 2014, P. 1104) Unfortunately, a high percentage of African American male students come from low-income families in which the cost of college seems out of reach. Often times, families in this socio economic status will not support college endeavors because they simply can not afford it and do not know of the resources available for their children to still attend college. This becomes a potential barrier because, as the findings concluded, students needed motivational support from their family and peers to even think about college in their futures. Participants in the CCR program had an opportunity to learn more about financial aid options, however for those students unable to participant it is a likely chance that they will not receive accurate information on how they can afford college.
The findings showed that students also needed the opportunity to experience college campus. Without the initial experience of college campus students aren’t able to vision themselves on a college campus, because it has always seemed hard to reach. This is an important pathway for students of color because it is a crucial step in their transitioning process that allows them to see that college is reachable and see themselves as college students in the future.
The studies conducted identified areas within postsecondary success attainment and the needs of African American male students. In relation to the findings, the information found in the studies showed that these areas would provide male students with the academic and social development needed “to persevere through difficult circumstances and events.” (Baber, 2014) The study also suggests that “these areas are interconnected and how any absence of a needed area of support could adversely affect if this group of students will even pursue postsecondary education.
As the literature states, Higher Education educators must begin to think about how “underlying the goal of increasing educational attainment in the United States is the significant influence of a knowledgeable citizenry on continued economic and social development.” (Baber, 2014) Economic and social development are key in how African American male students transition into college and are able to be retained and supported through to completion. If we want to see more males of color obtain their degree, it is critical to see what these students experience first hand and create initiatives that will ensure academic success for this student population. In the study, every student that participated gave a unique perspective into their experiences as they transitioned into college. They vocalized the challenges they face, which often demotivate them and decrease the chances of them pursuing and obtaining a degree.
In addition, research shows a trend in African American male students not receiving the
developmental education needed for them to graduate like their white male counterparts. The
“unmet cultural and developmental needs” include a lack of culturally sensitive curricular,
programs, and activities that should be in place to meet the needs of students of color. (Baber,
2014) The literature identifies commonalities that include inadequate developmental education
levels, the need for an increase in developmental education from educators and college teachers,
and implementation of developmental education strategies. Thus research shows that “students of
color (African American, Native American Indian, and Latino/Hispanic) entering
four-year Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) compared to their White peers are more
likely to be identified as underprepared for college (Institute of Education Sciences [IES], 2004”
(Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013) In fact, African American students who actually make it into PWIs
and onto campus find that they are not academically prepared to keep up with coursework and
succeed. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013) Another key step in ensuring we retain this student
population is to make sure there are programs in place that work with them through their first
year experience and beyond. Majority of African American males need additional support to
meet academic performance expectations as well as adjust and find their place in the campus
community as African American male students.
As we review the literature and analyze the studies conducted to answer the important
questions related to this area, we can look at the findings and identify ways in which
educators can begin to break down the barriers this group faces, which hinders entry into college
and completion of college.
In the study Marbley, A. F. et al (2013), we see that students of color are academically and culturally underprepared to excel in college, and more so at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Further, the attitudes and interactions of faculty and staff at PWIs is crucial for students of color, especially African American males, to be successful on campus and maintain their enrollment. Many PWIs still lack the needed amount of placement and assessment for students of color and the transparency to address the racist and affective barriers to learning that this student population still faces. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013)
Developmental education levels
The reality is that students of color, and specifically African American males, need multiple levels of resources and assistance in order to be successful in college. The findings show that due to this realization, colleges and universities have to begin to look at the predictors of success for this student population. Even in relation to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), PWIs have not truly confirmed to the “people factor in education” that has shown to be very effective for African American students, especially African American males at HBCUs. The institutional environment has to embrace the special needs of students of color in order for them to be successful and keep up with their peers. Another study found that a focus on personal support from the campus environment is key to the success of African American students and that it is important to distinguish between race and gender to ensure each student group is receiving the right type of support. (Baker, C. N., 2013)
Even for students of color who are admitted into PWIs, they often find that they are not prepared to survive and excel on campus academically and culturally. Further, students of color, specifically African American males who do not have positive racial identities may be even more vulnerable to the factors that would help them to thrive on campus. Those factors include “race-related stress, psychological/interpersonal stress, and academic stress; poor self-esteem; negative racial identity, low academic and social self-concepts, and family background [as well as] psychological and racial identity development, family, and culture.” (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P. 97) The institution also contributes to the success of this student population, or their lack of success. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P. 97)
In the literature, the findings concluded that students of color enrolled in PWIs felt isolated from the student population and often had to choose between the need to be apart of social groups or the need to achieve academic success. For students that already have previous academic experiences with racial and stereotypical inequities, these factors are even more detrimental to the possibility for them to reach academic success. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013)
Developmental education from college teachers
As outlined in the literature, the interactive relationships with African American students and faculty plays an important role in how well they perform academically. Faculty and academic professionals have to recognize they are a part of the solution to seeing an increase in not only for students of color, but also for African American male students. They play a major role in the possibilities of colleges and Universities to be able to successfully retain this student population through to degree completion. The way that this group of students experiences the campus environment impacts their academic success outcomes, and college teachers can also be involved in that experience by helping students to fit in with their peers.
So, overall the influence of faculty, and even faculty of color is important to the academic success of African American students. (Baker, C. N., 2013) It is even more so important for African American male college students. A common theme we find overlapping in the literature is the fact that when African American male students have high quality relationships with faculty they perform better on campus. Also, students “seemed to rely on their faculty for a sense of connection on campus”, which is important to their success. (Sandoval-Lucero, E., Maes, J.B. & Klingsmith, L., 2014)
Another study, found in the literature The influence of involvement with faculty and mentoring on the self- efficacy and academic achievement of African American and Latino college students (DeFreitas, S. C., & Bravo, A. J., 2012) looked at the influence of faculty involvement with students of color. The participants were African American and Latino college students. The purpose of this study was to examine the practices of mentoring and faculty interactions with college students of color to see if they are effective and in what ways they influence achievement for African American students. The participants were surveyed to examine the influence of involvement with faculty and mentoring on self-efficacy and academic achievement. Research suggests that mentoring and increase faculty-student relationships are “particularly important for ethnic minorities who may not have people in their family or social network that can support their academic endeavors.” (Alvarez, Blume, Cervantes & Thomas, 2009)
The findings concluded that “involvement with faculty was related to better academic achievement in African American and Latino college students.” In addition, it was found that the relationship between faculty and those student populations was explained by higher self-efficacy or value in their ability to keep up with the academic load. (DeFreitas, S. C., & Bravo, A. J., 2012, P. 6) This finding was also suggested by previous research. Additionally, students felt that if they were able to discuss academics and other subjects with faculty outside of the classroom they performed better academically. Students felt as though they could trust the faculty and faculty respected and heard them as students, regardless of their ethic background. (DeFreitas, S. C., & Bravo, A. J., 2012, P. 6) Both mentoring and faculty interaction lead to higher academic performance for college students, and specifically African American. These findings were based off the academic records of a group of African American students who obtained more college credits and higher grades compared to a control group with GPA and retention rates considered for measurement. Further, in the literature Museus, S. D., Nichols, A. H., & Lambert, A. D., (2008) is was concluded that “for black students, normative academic involvement mediate the only positive indirect effect of perceived campus climate for black students” to reach completion and therefore, greater satisfaction with the campus climate among African American students meant higher academic involvement and a higher chance of degree attainment. (Museus, S. D., Nichols, A. H., & Lambert, A. D., 2008)
Developmental education strategies
The studies conducted identified areas within development education and the needs of African American male students at PWIs. In fact, research suggests that there are “a number of factors [that] serve as important contributors to the undergraduate experience: campus climate and environmental factors; academic integration and mentoring; and social integration experiences. Each of these factors individually and collectively play an important role in how minorities choose to interface with their respective institutions.” (Marbley, A. F. et al, 2013, P. 96) As mentioned earlier, HBCUs have demonstrated it is possible to create a college environment where African American students can thrive. So, PWIs now need to begin to adopt some of those strategies and figure out how they can be implemented within a campus culture that is not predominately black or African American. As mentioned in the literature, “many students of color who attend postsecondary institutions continue to experience what has been referred to as “the lack of “student- institution” fit. [and] essentially, the more congruent a student is with the institutional context—the better the fit—the more likely the student will persist to graduation.” (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P. 96) It is also mentioned that any “existing developmental theories that ignore cultural differences, erroneously assume that environment, culture, and backgrounds of students are the same. In essence, differences in race, ethnicity, and culture-related factors such family roles, child-rearing practices, cultural values, and growing up as a person of color in American should create different developmental dynamics for students (Herndon & Moore, 2002).” (Marbely, A.F. et al, 2013, P.97) Researchers have found that the cultural differences of students of color, in particular African American students can not be ignored.
Researchers recommend that PWIs develop strategies to meet the needs of African American students that include mental health, social, identity and leadership development to meet the academic, developmental, and cultural needs of this student population. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P.108) It seems that this concept is common as we look at how institutions can help African American male college students adjust successfully on campus and make it through to obtain their degree.
Further, the literature brings us to recommendations of the researchers and theorists that include “a holistic, culturally responsive strategy for African American students that integrates psycho-social, family, peer, and institutional factors such as: (a) requiring diversity sensitive training for everyone (administrators, faculty, staff, and students) specifically about African-American life; this training should include strategies for improving faculty expectations and cultural biases, the classroom and institutional climate, and ultimately, faculty-student relations, student-student relations, and student-admin- istrator relations; (b) mandatory and monitored curricular (with multicultural considerations) that is nondiscriminatory, free of cultural bias, and speaks to the strength of African-American students; (c) clear strategic plans to create a critical mass of people of color; (d) acknowledging the presence of privilege, “Whiteness,” and White- American ethnicity in curricular and cultural activities; (e) exposing students to activities, events, and organizations that reflect their cultural backgrounds; (f) institutional practices that reflect non-Eurocentric paradigms, for ex- ample, practices that are collectivistic rather than individualistic; (g) encouraging students to form networks in their social community, familial, and clergy-based institutions; and lastly, [and] (h) developing partnerships with the African-American community and other communities of color.”
(Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P 108)
What are the contributions of this literature to the field?
In the literature, we were reminded of President Barack Obama’s notes, “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity—it is a pre-requisite” (Obama, 2009, para. 1). (Baber, 2014). In today’s Higher Education climate, we must aim to meet the president’s challenge and dismantle educational inconsistencies that are faced by African American male students who aspire to go to college and be productive in this society. (Baber, 2014)
As mentioned previously, Bachelorette completion rates are an ongoing concern for Higher Education Institutions and policy makers, where underrepresented minority student populations continue to exhibit extremely low completion rates compared to other groups. “It is critical, for several reasons, that higher education policymakers and practitioners understand the factors that facilitate or hinder racial minority college student persistence and degree completion.” (Museus, S. D., Nichols, A. H., & Lambert, A. D., 2008)
Research shows that PWIs campuses do not have the needed level of sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of African American male college students. The literature reviewed will help us move forward to begin implementing culturally responsive learning strategies and address the barriers to learning set forth by the lack of developmental education for this student population. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P. 108)
In addition, it is evident that a lack of educational development and opportunity still exists for this particular group of students. As reviewed under developmental education levels, research suggests that “regardless of levels of academic preparedness, a disproportionate number of students of color who man- age to get through the doors of PWIs often find themselves ill prepared to thrive on these campuses.” (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P. 92) This is significant to the filed of Higher Education because it is imperative for colleges and universities, as well as academic professionals, to be highly concerned about the academic success of students of color and how “that academic success or failure is in part directly related to unmet cultural and developmental needs.” (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013, P. 92)
The need for developmental education has created a cycle that has been detrimental to the African American male, beginning at the high school level, and is one main cause of disproportionate numbers of African American males that are imprisoned, unemployed, and living at or below the poverty line. The literature reviewed makes a significant contribution to the field of Higher Education because it will allow educators to begin incorporating the experiences of African American male students into how programs are created and implemented on college campuses. The realities that this group of students faces plays an important role in how educators, academic professionals and leaders will work to see a reduction of the barriers faced by males of color as they matriculate from their pathways into college, retention in college, and ultimately postsecondary success and degree attainment. (Baber, 2014)
The literature also concludes that there is a need for academic social integration and
mentoring among African American students, specifically African American male students, in order for them to not only make it to a college campus, but make the best out of the educational experience. (Marbley, A.F. et al, 2013)
What are the overall strengths?
The overall strengths of the literature were that they used actual students who are
involved in program initiatives to hear their stories and see how their participation in the programs helped them to overcome the barriers to postsecondary education aspirations. It also allows academic professionals the opportunity to look at real time examples of the students that identify with the underrepresented, minority student population. As an academic professional, my ultimate goal is to see an increase in students of color, particularly males of color obtain four year degrees at PWIs. It is important for more professionals to begin reviewing the literature surrounding this topic so that we can take a stance in creating some of the strategies that make the difference for African American male college students to have postsecondary aspirations and enroll in four year institutions.
There are many factors and challenges that African American male students face from the moment they realize that college should be next on their educational paths to actually pursuing postsecondary education. We were able to hear the voices of a sample of this student population, which helps us to gain a deeper, clearer understanding of the type of support and programs they need for us to see a successful transition into college, retention through college, and ultimately degree completion.
What are the overall weaknesses?
The overall weaknesses found in the literature is that it was stated that there was a lack of
resources related to the experiences of African American male college students. In order for the field to see an increase in this student population, we must continue to hear and understand their experiences as it relates to education, specifically their transition to and through college.
What are some next steps for research?
Some of the next steps for research are first, to continue with interviewing participants of
programs like CCR and similar in order to catch any continuous trends, or improvements, in the experiences of African American male students. Second, researchers should follow those students into their postsecondary pathways and assess their academic performance and culturally adaptability on the college campus that they attend. As researchers suggest, assessment and evaluation needs to be done over the next couple of decades. This will fill the gaps in research where limited information is available on this topic. It will also allow researchers and Higher Education institutions to capture the predictors of success for this student population and see what impact in the long run college readiness programs, campus resources, and developmental education strategies have on the outcomes of African American male college students. The enrollment, retention, and graduation numbers can also be tracked for this group of students who are participants in the programs and/or campus resources. Third, there needs to be an increase in studies done with this group. This will increase the amount of participants and allow researchers to continue to gain a better understanding, or supportive findings, that will push academic professionals, faculty, and university administrators to implement intervention programs, developmental education initiatives on college campuses, and create the “people factor” for underrepresented populations as they matriculate through college and beyond.
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How to write your perfect literature review APA style? Your tone should be objective as you summarize the research. Don't allow your objectivity to turn your literature review to an annotated bibliography. ... Try to be analytical. Composing a review is an exercise in comparative thinking. ... Connect paragraphs to one another, and link studies within paragraphs. ...