Studying scholars

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presentation at the Society for Textual Scholarship Conference in March 2011, at Penn State University

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  • It’s easy to see the results of a humanities scholar’s work: books, journal articles, and conference presentations and all bear evidence of scholarly engagement. The bibliography in journal article, the acknowledgements section in a book, data presented at a conference all demonstrate evidence of a scholar’s analysis of, and interaction with a variety of sources and people.But how do they (we) actually work? What are the ephemeral practices that we as scholars engage in, that don’t appear in the lengthy bibliography or acknowledgements section of a book? How do we do what we do as scholars, and how does that, help answer the question, how we know what we know?
  • Lorraine Daston asks precisely this question—how we know what we know. She states that for years, historians of science have written about how biologists learned to see under the microscope, how botanists learned to characterize plants in succinct Latin…But how do art historians learn to see, historians learn to read, philosophers to argue? What is the history of the art-historical slide collection, the initiation into archival research, the graduate seminar?...what about an epistemology based upon the practices of humanists, on what they do?I blame not only my inherent nosiness and my six years as an academic librarian observing faculty and students conducting research, but also Lorraine Daston, who asks
  • Particularly in today’s online environment, what practices do we engage in when reading scholarly texts online? How might this differ from the ways in which we read printed material? What processes do we use to conceptualize and organize our research?What websites or project sites (e.g., NINES, Google Books) do we use when conducting research, and how do we incorporate these sites into our own work?Answers to these questions will not only help satisfy Daston’s theoretical query about humanist epistemology, but they can also provide information that has implications for website design, usability, usage tracking, and—most importantly—for current and future electronic scholarship.
  • Literature review of current research in this fieldResults of an online survey I conducted with humanities scholars about what online sources they use in their work – left out questions about reading practices b/c too difficult to get at via an online survveyResults of 4 interviews I conducted with scholars at my own institution about their reading and research practicesConclusions and possible future directions
  • From the research I conducted to see what else has been done to address these questions, the research I found (listed in the bibliography at the end of my talk) falls into three general categories: citation analyses—what people are citing in monographs and journal articles; information-seeking behavior, which is library-ese for the practices that scholars engage in when conducting research; and ethnographic studies that endeavor to measure a wider scope of practices among humanities scholars. In this last category, some works include a study of humanities scholars’ online reading experiences, but they’re relatively rare, though I did find a few, which I’ll speak about in a moment.
  • Jeffrey Kushkowski, Kathy Parsons, and William Wiese conducted a longitudinal study of master’s and doctoral thesis citations, to analyze what sources were used and to gauge any trends in the citation. Their goal was to use this information as a collection management tool, as well as a method to "explore questions related to the sociology of knowledge. What are the disciplinary boundaries of a field? What relationships exist between researchers in a given field?" (463). While their study only begins to approach this--and to ask some really interesting questions at the end (what affect, if any, does a graduate student's advisor's educational background have on the grad student's citations), it generally supports Carole Palmer's research that scholars in arts & humanities disciplines cite monographs more than journals, whereas scholars in the sciences cite journals more than monographs.
  • Ryan Randall, Katie Clark, Jane Smith, and Nancy Foster’s study at the Univ. of Rochester – interviewed 25 grad students, 8 of whom were from the humanities. These eight showed a heavy reliance on bibliographies, databases, Google, and Wikipedia, but only when beginning – careful to qualify their study as limited to the Univ. of Rochester, their results are based solely on behaviors of individuals at their institutionHelen Tibbo and Ian Anderson implemented a coordinated study of how academic historians look for primary resources, and the kinds of materials they’re most likely to use; they break this information down by rank (asst., assoc., and full professor). In Tibbo’s survey of U.S. historians, junior faculty are more likely to use online catalogs and the web than their senior colleagues, and both groups use print and electronic resources at a consistent rate. The results of Anderson’s survey strongly echo Tibbo’s results: for unpublished primary sources (letters, diaries, gov’t info), historians rely on online finding aids, search engines, and OPAC’s. For published primary sources, historians’ use is more fragmented, relying on print as well as online retrieval methods (print finding aids, stacks, online finding aids, etc.)Andy Barrett’s interviews w/ 10 grad students at Ontario – he concluded that although grad students share some habits similar to faculty and some to undergraduate students, he noticed that different-level grad students, b/c they’re at different stages of their research process, exhibited slightly different behaviors or levels of research sophistication. He concluded that “more work remains to be done in exploring the subtler points of comparison between particular stages of the graduate career. Areas worth exploring include coursework phases at year 1 of the MA and PhD, comprehensive examinations at the PhD level, thesis/dissertation initiation at the MA and PhD level, and the broader post initiation/pre-defense period for MA and PhD programs” (330).
  • identify primitives, or a list of basic functions common to scholarly activity across disciplines--humanities researchers share these practices not only within humanities but also across disciplines, and that online tools can (and should) continue to be developed to foster these practices Palmer, et.al’s assessment of literature review of the socio-cultural approaches of scholars information behavior makes a number of conclusions: humanities scholars rely heavily on browsing, collecting, rereading and notetaking. They tend to compile a wide variety of sources and work with them by assembling, organizing, reading, analyzing and writing. In interacting with colleagues, they typically consult rather than collaborate, with the notion of the lone scholar persisting in certain fields. They also conclude that re-reading is the impetus for building personal collections, and is used as a “prime” for writingSukovic’s study of humanities scholars’ interactions w/ online texts (which she defines as "any textual material in electronic form used as a primary source in literary and historical studies" (271). From her interviews with 16 academics (9 in history, 7 in literary studies), she identifies a practice she terms ‘netchaining’: whereas many scholars still practice chaining, or mining bibliographies and looking up those references, on the Internet another source “may be onlya click away if there is a link, or it may require a brief additional search to retrieve the referenced source" (274).
  • Tenopir and King’s study looked at responses from 1,688 faculty in Australia and the U.S., from an array of disciplines about online journal reading. One of their conclusions was that on average, comparied with faculty in other disciplines, humanities faculty read fewer articles, rely more on browsing, and read older articles on average. This is not to say that humanities faculty members do not read, but they most likely read books, primary materials, and manuscripts.“Another important conclusion they came to relates to a signficant correlation between format and age: fewer readings by faculty members under the age of 30 come from the library or personal subscriptions and a greater percent come from the openWeb than readings by older faculty members...As the age of the reader decreases, the likelihood of the final form of reading being paper also decreases…The trend to more on-screen reading by younger faculty members should cause format to be reexamined" (148). Although the authors focus a little on the location of reading—faculty in the sciences tend to read more in their labs than humanities faculty in their offices—they give very little attention to the actual practices faculty employ when reading (skimming, browsing, netchaining).Hillesun’ interviews 10 humanities and social science scholars ranging from ages 38-65 about their print and online reading habits. More than other studies, his article offers a unique look at the physicality of scholars’ reading habits (studying when, where, and how they read), as well as the array of practices employed with print and digital texts (skimming, browsing, annotating). Some conclusions: over the course of his research, he identifies two main forms of scholarly reading—imaginary and reflective—which roughly correspond with the level of attention that scholars devote to those texts. Imaginary reading refers to fiction, which his subjects tend to read continuously, without flipping back and forth through the book, or stopping to annotate. Reflective reading, which his subjects categorize as scholarly articles and books, is characterized by discontinuity, since it is often read in parts or skimmed, annotated, and incorporated into a scholar’s writing process. The challenge is for digital platforms to promote both sustained imaginative and reflective reading,” and reading software should “enable links to much–used reading resources, such as dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and the “study–mode” should easily combine with creative applications, such as word processors, for effortless transfer of notes, citations and references.”
  • Listservs include SHARP-L, Humanist, and C-19 listserv, as well as specific groups on Facebook and GradShare14-question survey limited to sources, because I quickly realized reading practices were too difficult to gauge in an online survey, so I restricted those questions to my in-person interviewsAudience included scholars--graduate students, part- and full-time faculty, and independent scholars—from several disciplines281 people to date have completed the survey – 335 people to date have answered some part of the surveyI’m going with # of responses per question
  • Out of 308 responsesfull-time faculty - 146graduate student, doctoral level76combination of above (please elaborate) - 38 8 respondents were librarians or library staff 6 retired faculty or librarians 4 postdocs 3 full-time staff independent scholar -29graduate student, master's level21part-time faculty member (e.g., adjunct or instructor)17
  • 291 – 5 elided b/c bad dataLiterature – 131Book history – 60History – 39Arthistory—12Cultural history – 12Music/musicology/musicology—10Religion—6Other areas: library science (3), visual culture (2), popular culture (2), theatre (1), dance (1), philosophy (1), publishing (1), media theory (1)
  • 269 reponses (respondents could choose more than one item)Facebook – 166 (62%)Blogs - 154 (57%)Smartphones – 102 (38%)E-book readers-71 (26%)Twitter – 64 (24%)Other technologies: databases (12); Zotero (4); listserv (6) – eh…
  • 298 responses (respondents could check more than one item):Google Books – 265 (89%)Amazon.com & Wikipedia – 212 (71%)Google Scholar – 202 (68%)Library of Congress’s Collections – 184 (62%)Project Gutenberg – 164 (55%)2 folks in the Dark Ages reported not using websites for research
  • Internet Archive (archive.org)—33Making of America (Cornell and/or Michigan’s site): 22Online catalogs – 22 (BPL, NYPL, Worldcat.org)Google – 13 (maps, images, search engine, books, patents, Ngram viewer)HathiTrust – 12Whitman Archive – 6NINES – 5UVA’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin website – 4
  • Out of 282 responses (respondents could check more than one option), here are the top reasons…Background research – 264 (94%)Primary sources to cite or use – 204 (72%)Secondary sources to cite or use – 198 (70%)
  • Bibliographical analyis (comparing editions, identifying all editions of a work) – 7Tracking/checking references or quotations – 5Finding more sources - 4Finding images for analysis – 4Surprises and satire: “sometimes the google or wiki results are so bad as to be hilarious or useful as cautionary”
  • Out of 277 responses (respondents could choose more than one item)…JSTOR – 276 (99.999%)ProjectMuse – 245 (88%)MLAIB – 143 (52%)ECCO – 96 (35%)EEBO – 93 (34%)Historical Abstracts – 72 (26%)ARTstor – 62 (22%)
  • American Periodical Series – 24Early American Imprints – 14America’s Historical Newspapers - 12America: History and Life – 10WorldCat – 16Oxford English Dictionary Online - 8Proquest’s Dissertations – 7Proquest’s British Periodicals – 7Accessible Archives – 6Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - 6Proquest’s Historical Newspapers - 6
  • Out of 269 responses (respondents could choose more than one item), they chose…Secondary sources to use in their research – 249 (93%)Background research – 224 (83%)Primary sources to cite or use – 192 (71%)Other reasons include verifying citations, finding sources that may be in the library, etc.
  • This is the question as it appeared on the survey – asked scholars to rank them from most frequently-used method to least frequently-used methodWish I’d included an option for “it depends”
  • Out of 263 responses (respondents had to rank their choices from most important to least important): Consulting individual journals that a researcher subscribes to – 166 (63%)Consulting a bibliography or reference list from a book or article – 74 (28%) Using a database via a library’s website – 67 (25%)Using free websites and online collections – 65 (24%)Tie! using search engines (Google, Google Books, Google Scholar) *and* browsing the stacks and bound journals at a library– 60 (22.8%)Library catalog – 57 (21.6%)Mention top reason supporting Carole Palmer’s conclusion about re-reading as impetus for building a personal collection, and which serves as a prime for writing – supports importance of personal collection for humanities scholarsMention flaw in writing question – not specifying whether personally-owned journal was in print or online Other important thing: using search engines and browsing the stacks and bound journals at a library comes in for a tie
  • Communicating with colleagues/scholars in the field – 37 (of this group, 10 mentioned conferences, 10 mentioned email, 7 mentioned conferences, 9 mentioned listservs, and one person each mentioned Facebook and academic blogs)Consulting her/his own personal collection of books/articles/files – 109 start with a primary source (letters, literary texts)Another 7 mention going to archival or special collectionsMy personal favorite:“Dowsing rod”
  • Of 275 responses (respondents could choose more than one choice):When beginning a research project, researchers generally started both broad and specific. The most common written answer to this question was “it depends” - on the project, one’s knowledge of a topic, on inspiration, on serendipity.“Sometimes I think I’m just looking for a quick answer, and then it turns into a project.”“Start with as many copies of the story as I can find in books, periodicals, audio, online, etc. Then develop questions about authorship, publishing, reception, etc. Seek answers in published research, in primary documents (e.g., 19th-c. stories in which James’ novel is mentioned in some way). Digest, synthesize, write.”
  • Of 276 reponses (respondents could choose more than one item), here’s how they organized their research at the beginning of a project:Word-processed document (Google docs, Microsoft Word, Open Office, etc.) – 202 (73%)Emailed citations to themselves – 172 (62%)Printing it out, if it’s online – 165 (60%)Photocopying it, if it’s in print – 159 (58%)Saving citations in a software or web-based program (Dropbox, EndNote, Evernote, Mendeley, Zotero, etc.) – 83 (30%)Word-processed document—annotation key for humanities researchers (tied closely w/ reading)
  • 16 mentioned saving pdf’s or digital images to a computer, Kindle, iPad, or other device 12 mentioned taking notes by hand (two with index cards and two with legal pads) “writing, writing, writing--on long legal pads; never on computer”12 mentioned using programs (Papers, Scrivener, EndNote, Word) to organize citations6 mentioned pdf-ing print material (interesting reversal – does this challenge
  • B [history professor] has to consult primary sources in a Latin script, so reads with “soft eyes” and moves through online material slowly. Will occasionally print out books and have them bound at Kinko’s, in order to read them more closely.C [doctoral student] reads print books almost exclusively, using the library stacks. Will find print books, skim title and TOC before checking out the book. C eventually reads books cover to cover, with a pencil in hand (“attentive skimming”). C attended a college where all research was done via print sources at the library.A [master’s student] uses cached web pages when searching online; will read for highlighted words. Also skims TOC in books (both print and online). Will scan library books for later reading.D [literature professor] has to consults reprints of primary sources, so also reads closely (“I’m not a digital native, and I know that…I’m a complete and utter believer in the artifact”).
  • A uses NotePad documents to organize bibliographies and annotations, organized by project (“they’re my ‘critical thinking’ documents); uses JSTOR and ProjectMuse for saving citations as well as researchB and D have ‘giant’ Word documents with bibliographies and notes; D organizes list of works and notes chronologically, to help with recall D & C print out annotations from Word documents and re-read notes before handwriting additional annotations All participants download journal articles to keep for further consultation (gathering a personal collection)A, B, and D print out articles they need to read intensively; C (the library stacks researcher) chooses online only, but believes she doesn’t process information as well as she did when she printed out articles and annotated them by hand
  • iAnnotate, a plug-in Carole Palmer, from “Information Work”:“Some of the most interesting and challenging information problems exist within the humanities, where texts, images, and artifacts are commonplace sources of data…the humanities offer an optimal test bed from which to learn how to develop and exploit heterogeneous information for the purposes of innovative inquiry. Interdisciplinary humanities scholars are engaged in complex and difficult information work. Their enterprise thrives on information rich-ness and dialectic exchange, conditions that at present are scarcely supported by existing information systems and largely constructed by scholars in their own ad hoc information environments. As we clarify the working relationships between scholarly practices and mate-rials, collections of sources and tools can be developed and combined to better support the ways that scholars work, even as they move be-tween digital and physical environments and across intellectual bound-aries.
  • my survey participants, without whom this study would not existPatrick Leary and William McCarty, who posted the survey link on SHARP-L and Humanist listservs, respectivelyPatricia Hwse, Digital Collections Curator at Penn State University Libraries, who tweeted the survey link for meL-C19-Americanists listserv moderator, who posted the survey linkJeff Lang and Devin McGinty at GradShare, who allowed me to post the survey linkDr. Lynnette Overby, my supervisor who gave me leave time from my job to develop this *and* who provided feedback on my presentationProfessor Jim Brophy, whose response to my paper for his history of the book course inspired this entire projectyou for your time and attention; I look forward to your questions
  • Studying scholars

    1. 1. Studying Scholars: Reading and Research Practices in a Digital Environment Or, Adventures of an Amateur Ethnographer Meg Meiman University of Delaware meiman@udel.edu
    2. 2. The (Lone) Humanities Scholar at WorkImages courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and ProjectMuse
    3. 3. I blame Lorraine Daston“How do art historians learn to see, historianslearn to read, philosophers to argue? What is thehistory of the art-historical slide collection, theinitiation into archival research, the graduateseminar?...What about an epistemology basedupon the practices of humanists, on what they do?” Lorraine Daston, “Whither Critical Inquiry?” Critical Inquiry
    4. 4. All I did was ask… How do scholars read online? How do we conduct research online? What online sources do scholars use when conducting research?
    5. 5. What I‟ll tackle in the next 15 minutes Literature review  what‟s been done thus far Survey results about online sources  preliminary, but interesting Results from interviews about reading practices  limited sample of scholars at my institution Conclusions and possible future directions
    6. 6. Laying the groundwork…Review of existing literature generally falls into one or more of these categories:  Citation analyses  Information-seeking behavior  Ethnographic studies (some include reading practices)
    7. 7. Citation, citation, citationCitation analysis  tracking the most commonly-cited books or articles • used by anyone going up for tenure, to measure citation impact of their work  counting the format of sources used in a monograph • used for collection management in academic libraries • used to gauge disciplinary boundaries of a fieldNot always reliable, given inaccuracy of citations (e.g., citing JSTOR articles as print sources)
    8. 8. Where do you go for information?Information-seeking behavior University of Rochester‟s survey of graduate students from multiple disciplines Tibbo‟s (U.S.) and Anderson‟s (UK) survey of academic historians Barrett‟s interviews with humanities graduate students at the University of Western Ontario
    9. 9. How do you do what you do?Ethnographic studies Unsworth‟s identification of primitives, and how online tools can better reflect them  discovering  annotating  comparing  referring  sampling  illustrating  representing Palmer, Teffeau, and Pirmann‟s assessment of degree to which humanities scholars exhibit primitives  Rely heavily on re-reading and note-taking  Typically consult rather than collaborate with colleagues  Re-reading is often used as a „prime‟ for writing Sukovic‟s ethnographic study of humanities scholars‟ interactions with electronic texts  Netchaining – scholars combine aspects of networking with information-seeking practices
    10. 10. How do you read online?Reading practices Tenopir and King‟s study of online journal reading practices among academics from several disciplines Hillesun‟s interviews with scholars about their reading practices
    11. 11. All I did was ask… How do scholars read online? How do we conduct research online? What online sources do scholars use when conducting research?
    12. 12. From 24 responses to 278 (thanks, Twitter!) Survey questions distributed via listservs 14-question survey centered on what sources scholars use Audience included academics from several humanities disciplines Analysis of responses done via qualitative methods (hand-coding for frequency)
    13. 13. Who are you?60% 48%40% 25% 12% 9% 6% 7%20%0%
    14. 14. Respondents by disciplinary area45%40%35%30%25%20% 15% 10% 5% 0%
    15. 15. What technologies do you regularly use?70% 62% 57%60%50% 38%40%30% 26% Facebook 24% Blogs 20% 10% Smartphones 0% E-book readers Twitter
    16. 16. What free websites and collections do you use? 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
    17. 17. Free websites and collections (cont‟d) 12% 10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0%
    18. 18. Reasons for using free websites and collections… 100% 90% 80% 70% 94% 60% 50% 72% 70% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Background Primary Sources Secondary Research to cite or use Sources to cite or use
    19. 19. Reasons for using free sites (cont‟d) Bibliographical analysis Tracking/checking references or quotations Finding more sources Finding images for analysis Satire/surprise: “Sometimes the google or wiki results are so bad as to be hilarious or useful as cautionary.”
    20. 20. What subscription-based sites do you use?100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 99% 88% 40% 30% 52% 20% 35% 34% 26% 10% 22% 0%
    21. 21. Subscription-based sites (cont‟d)8%6%4%2%0%
    22. 22. Reasons for using subscription-based sites 100% 80% 60% 93% 40% 83% 20% 71% 0% Secondary sources to use in Background research - 93% research - 83% Primary sources to cite or use - 71%
    23. 23. How do you begin your research? (rank „em) bibliography or reference list from a book or article book stacks and bound journals at the library databases via the librarys website (ARTstor, JSTOR, MLA, Project Muse, etc.) free websites and online collections individual journals I personally subscribe to library catalog search engines
    24. 24. Ways researchers begin their research80% 63%60%40% 28% 25% 24% 22% 22% 21%20% 0%
    25. 25. Ways researchers begin their work (cont‟d)14%12%10% 8% 14% 6% 4% 2% 3% 3% 2% 0% other personal primary archival or scholars collections source special collections
    26. 26. Conceptually speaking When beginning a project, researchers generally started both broad and specific. Most common written answer: “it depends”  “Sometimes I think I‟m just looking for a quick answer, and then it turns into a project.”  “Start with as many copies…as I can find in books, periodicals, audio, online, etc. Then develop questions about authorship, publishing, reception, etc. Seek answers in published research, in primary documents … Digest, synthesize, write.”
    27. 27. Collecting and organizing research material Save citations Word- in processed program, 30 document, 73 % % Word-processed Photocopy document print Email citations tosources, 58% self Print out online sources Photocopy print sources Save citations in Email program Print out citations to online self, 62%sources, 60%
    28. 28. Other affordances5%5%4%4%3% 5%3% 4% 4%2%2% 2%1%1%0% saving pdfs handwriting web-based digitizing print notes programs material
    29. 29. Interviews with Univ. of Delaware scholars Interviewed 4 participants:  Two graduate students in literature (one master‟s level, one doctoral level)  Two full professors, one in in literature, one in history Interviews lasted an average of 1 hour each Questions centered on individual research projects, and process of reading, researching, and note-taking
    30. 30. Reading practices Practices vary based on project and personal research methodology history  B [history professor] has to consult primary sources in a Latin script – moves slowly through online material (reads with “soft eyes”)  C [doctoral student] reads print books almost exclusively, using the library stacks – skims title and TOC – eventually reads books cover to cover, with a pencil in hand (“attentive skimming”).  A [master‟s student] uses cached web pages when searching online – skims TOC in books (both print and online), and scans library books for later reading.  D [literature professor] has to consults reprints of primary sources, so also reads closely (“I‟m not a digital native, and I know that…I‟m a complete and utter believer in the artifact”).
    31. 31. Research practices All participants use word-processing programs to organize bibliographies and annotations (D organizes list of works and notes chronologically, to help with recall; A uses JSTOR and ProjectMuse for saving citations as well as research) All participants download journal articles to keep for further consultation – importance of gathering a personal collection D & C print out annotations from Word documents and re- read notes before handwriting additional annotations A, B, and D print out articles they need to read intensively; C (the library stacks researcher) chooses online only, but doesn‟t process information as well as with printed and hand-annotated articles
    32. 32. Final thoughts/future directions Personal collections, whether print or online, form the basis and often the starting point of humanities scholars‟ work Future studies of reading practices of humanities scholars need to encompass annotation and other writing practices Digital platforms need to be developed to allow for more seamless movement between online reading/skimming and annotation
    33. 33. Acknowledging my own invisible college… my survey participants, without whom this study would not exist Patrick Leary and William McCarty, who posted the survey link on SHARP-L and Humanist listservs, respectively Patricia Hwse, Digital Collections Curator at Penn State University Libraries, who tweeted the survey link for me L-C19-Americanists listserv moderator, who posted the survey link Jeff Lang and Devin McGinty at GradShare, who allowed me to post the survey link
    34. 34. I‟d like to thank the Academy… Dr. Lynnette Overby, my supervisor who gave me leave time from my job to pursue this project Christine Yacyshyn, for teaching me the beauty of graphs Professor Jim Brophy, whose response to my paper for his history of the book course inspired this entire project You – thank you for your time and attention

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