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The PhD in LIS Career Development
Paul Sturges
Loughborough
University, and
University of Pretoria
Why seek a PhD?
 Recently some Indian colleagues speculated about
this on Facebook:
– In our office nobody talks without ...
Reasons for PhD study
 The purist approach: Making a contribution to
knowledge.
 Career development
– As a qualification...
LIS PhD: origins and progress
 The first LIS PhD programmes were in the
USA in the 1920s.
– Roughly 3000 completed theses...
McMastergate
 A blogstorm occurred in 2011after Jeff Trzeciak,
then University Librarian at McMaster University,
expresse...
Views from McMastergate blogs
 Bloggers against Trzeciak argued that:
– Appointing PhDs is de-professionalisation;
– Deva...
The question of quality
 The quality of LIS PhDs in the USA is
unquestionable, but a personal sample of theses
from many ...
Advice for potential PhD students
 Talk to universities with long-established
programmes first.
 Use the knowledge gaine...
Conclusions
 PhD study can be utterly fulfilling, but:
– It takes time and money, and
– If it does not work out well it c...
Conclusions
 PhD study can be utterly fulfilling, but:
– It takes time and money, and
– If it does not work out well it c...
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Paul Sturges: The PhD in LIS Career Development #bcs2015

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Talk given at the BOBCATSSS 2015 conference - http://www.bobcatsss2015.com/.

This presentation looks at the PhD as a contribution to an information professional’s career. After sketching the history of the LIS PhD, it samples the rather heated current debate (from blog content) and offers some disturbing personal insights into the quality of PhD research worldwide. Finally, it sets out useful approaches for anyone intending to enrol for a LIS PhD.

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Paul Sturges: The PhD in LIS Career Development #bcs2015

  1. 1. The PhD in LIS Career Development Paul Sturges Loughborough University, and University of Pretoria
  2. 2. Why seek a PhD?  Recently some Indian colleagues speculated about this on Facebook: – In our office nobody talks without addressing Dr to anyone, from top to bottom. I think it shows individuals’ craze for the PhD itself. – This is a sign of respect only. – It’s a fashion, like a virus.  These are very bad reasons for undertaking at least three years of what should be very demanding study.  There are better reasons than simple prestige.
  3. 3. Reasons for PhD study  The purist approach: Making a contribution to knowledge.  Career development – As a qualification to teach LIS – As a qualification for senior library posts  Personal fulfilment: the reading, theorising, investigating, analysing and writing can be a joy in its own right, but – Remember that it can also be agony.
  4. 4. LIS PhD: origins and progress  The first LIS PhD programmes were in the USA in the 1920s. – Roughly 3000 completed theses from US schools since then.  Programmes in all regions of the world now. – eg. Over 1300 completed theses in India.  There is currently some impassioned debate on the LIS PhD.
  5. 5. McMastergate  A blogstorm occurred in 2011after Jeff Trzeciak, then University Librarian at McMaster University, expressed a preference for appointing PhD holders (not necessarily in LIS) to senior posts rather than librarians.  The blog content is a rich research resource on the topic. It reveals: – Some support for Trzeciak’s argument; – A variety of arguments against the PhD as a qualification for senior library posts.
  6. 6. Views from McMastergate blogs  Bloggers against Trzeciak argued that: – Appointing PhDs is de-professionalisation; – Devalues librarians’ skills.  Supporters of the PhD claimed that: – In academic libraries PhD library staff are more respected; – Academic abilities of librarians needed to be raised to PhD level.
  7. 7. The question of quality  The quality of LIS PhDs in the USA is unquestionable, but a personal sample of theses from many countries suggests: – Standards can be disgustingly low, for essentially corrupt reasons; – Universities that do not have well-established programmes may be unintentionally compromising standards.  This creates difficulties for potential students and for employers looking to hire PhDs.
  8. 8. Advice for potential PhD students  Talk to universities with long-established programmes first.  Use the knowledge gained from this to assess newer programmes.  Look for a potential supervisor or research team with a strong publication record, read and assess some of their output.  Try to have a clear idea of the research topic or area you prefer. Owning your topic makes success more likely.
  9. 9. Conclusions  PhD study can be utterly fulfilling, but: – It takes time and money, and – If it does not work out well it can be deeply depressing, – It does not automatically advance your career.  Choose your programme and topic well, and first of all, study for the joy of it.  Finally, my hearty good wishes to all current and potential LIS PhD students!
  10. 10. Conclusions  PhD study can be utterly fulfilling, but: – It takes time and money, and – If it does not work out well it can be deeply depressing, – It does not automatically advance your career.  Choose your programme and topic well, and first of all, study for the joy of it.  Finally, my hearty good wishes to all current and potential LIS PhD students!

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