Librarians as researchers: doing research in your day job


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A one-hour presentation and workshop for library staff engaged in, or thinking about engaging in, research. We draw on our experience as former Arcadia Research Fellows and authors of ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy) as well as the practical aspects of 'doing research in your day job'. The presentation was accompanied by a worksheet and action plan for participants.

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  • Jane
  • JS and EMC
  • EMC
  • JS and EMC
  • EMC
  • EMC - 5 minutes in pairs
  • JS
  • JS - 2 mins (?) in pairs
  • EMC
  • JS
  • EMC - Zen and the Art of Research Management - John Naughton, Robert W. Taylor:“3. PROTECT YOUR RESEARCHERS FROM EXTERNAL INTERFERENCE, whether from company personnel officers, senior executives or security personnel. Remember that your job is to create a supportive and protective space within which they can work.” ( was much easier during Arcadia of course; how did we manage afterwards, when it became clear that the work had only just started and there was still lots that we wanted to get our teeth into?J - Getting away from the day job can become almost impossible, which means if you want to do it you have to put in the time outside of work. M - After Arcadia I started to carve out time where I could go and sit in Costa/Wolfson because I need a ‘third space’ in which to concentrate, reflect and synthesise - these aren’t really things you do in the working day so much. Tip: Writers’ groups also give a ‘sheltered space’ where all you have to think about is the task at hand (and you can set these up for yourself, at the weekend if you can’t get away from work during the week).
  • EMC - M - You don’t leave it behind at 5pm, you live it : ) That’s one of the biggest pressures about doing research, but also one of the biggest rewards. You own it.J – It almost becomes like a hobby. But it means you need a sympathetic family / partner as you may need to spend free time on your research.(And as an interesting corollary - librarians suddenly don’t get your priorities/understand the pressure - you need this article NOW, not tomorrow (!))
  • EMC - J – working with someone else is highly motivating, it boosts your confidence. It makes things seem less daunting – two of you to divide up work, two heads better than one etc. But also much more fun. I guess it is how you find that right person![Also put tip about networking here?]M -Synergy of complementary working styles and approaches - J is practical, focused, a proper social scientist who understands how to design research that uses people as data sources (quant and qualv research); M is abstract, theoretical, uses written word as source of data as well as the instrument of assertion and exploration (desk research, traditional A&H method). Together we produced more than twice as much than one person would have done alone, and it’s probably more than twice as good as well : )
  • JS - Apply for external or internal project funds to facilitate research. I have always found that one way of allowing me time in the day job has been to get project funding to do what I want to do! Easier said that done of course, but you need to keep an eye on calls coming out, tap into resources and contacts. Again having a partner can help here. I am thinking of projects I worked on with Gwyneth Price, with Nancy Graham.
  • EMCJ - Think what is it that you do that no one else is doing? Or you have a specific focus on? Try to always find something new to say, that builds on the work of others, but is a bit novel. Whether it’s related to your institution, the students you teach (their level, their subject focus, the geographic area they come from)M – You may also tumble into this naturally as you spend time in your own research landscape. To make sure that what you have to say is useful and timely for your audience, the research community, you do need to “come into the parlor” (Kenneth Burke) and listen to the conversation – i.e., orientate yourself in the literature. You’ll find yourself becoming absorbed, and then you’ll want to answer back – but sometimes it’s the equivalent of a chance comment that will suddenly flick on the light bulb for you and help you identify closely with a part of your research landscape (for me it’s the concept of agency in information literacy).
  • JSJ - develop your web presence so your profile as a researcher in your own institution is recognised.Share your ideas – we do this using our blog and Slideshare. People can see we are speaking at other places and want to find out more. M – The cutting edge of research is no longer in published journals but in online form, generally self-published, not embargoed, and not behind paywalls. Using resources like researcher blogs, Twitter, Slideshare, Mendeley, JORUM, means you’re getting the most up-to-date state of the field. But don’t just consume – produce as well! Put yourself on LinkedIn and Mendeley and tell people what your research interests are. Every time you give a class presentation, think about putting it on SlideShare automatically (unless there’s a good reason to stop you). Every time you have a lightbulb moment at the inquiry desk, blog or tweet it. If you don’t have a blog, think about putting something on your institution’s blog. If you find a great resource, share it.This is also the start of your publication strategy : )
  • JSM – You don’t have to start with formal academic publishing of the journal article type. You can present your work through so many channels now and reach so many different spheres. And the huge advantage is that you can develop your ideas publicly, collaboratively – AJ Cann on the difference between the blog post as a kind of musing and the journal article as a commitment to a position.J - Everyone worries what they are doing and saying is just common sense and not of interest to others. But overcome your fears and be brave. Even if it’s just a small talk to colleagues at lunchtime. If you think what you are doing is interesting then chances are others will think it is too. Plus it doesn’t take long to get a reputation (!) if you agree to speak at an event, you’ll be amazed how it can lead to other opportunities.
  • JS Most managers will be only too pleased if you get something published, particularly if it shows your institution in a favourable light. They may even end up giving you time in your job to publish. But do learn to write your work up appropriately if you want to be published in research journals ... !
  • EMCMany articles skip describing the research method employed because they think it sounds too lightweight. Mistake! – if you don’t give a clear statement of your method, your reader can’t connect what you say you’re doing with what you’ve achieved – the ‘what’ with the ‘why’. Also, lots of articles don’t give sufficient theoretical support for their claims, and sometimes they get bogged down in trying to sound “properly academic” in order to make up for that (“This paper expounds on the affordances of new research modalities through the lens of Heidegger”). The great thing about practitioner or action research is that we have access to real people doing real tasks in a real context, and it’s our job to find out everything we can about who they are, what they bring, how they’re working and what they’re doing, so that we can help improve it. So don’t be afraid of the M word. It’s just “the means”. Your method is the framework that lets you execute the research, actually do it, and then describe it to other people so they can go “Oh, what a great idea” and replicate it. (Check out #overlyhonestmethods on Twitter for reassurance)Remember that there are only two types of methodology – quantitative and qualitative – and within that distinction, there are lots of research methods. You don’t employ a methodology, you use a method, or a means, to achieve something. And your research shouldn’t be dictated by your chosen method: your method should support what you want to achieve from the research. We wanted to use a recognised method to give us academic credibility – the Delphi study – but we didn’t have the time to do a “proper” Delphi, so we used a “modified Delphi study” and that got us what we needed both in terms of data collection and an analytical framework, and also in terms of credibility, academic authority, and reproducibility.These are very similar to students’ problems with academic writing and ECR’s decisions on where to publish! Learning from our students can not only help us offer better support, it will help us to become better researchers
  • EMC - We framed our session today around three questions.Those three questions, ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’, are also the classic framework for structuring, describing and doing a research project ....
  • EMC... Like this. And here is the solution for anyone with a fear of the M word – because looking at what you’re doing together with why you’re doing it should enable to you to find the best procedural framework for making it happen.
  • EMC - 5 minutes to fill in your worksheet
  • JS
  • Librarians as researchers: doing research in your day job

    1. 1. The Librarian as Researcher Jane Secker and Emma Coonan25th January 2013, ARLG, York St John University Image: Kevin Dooley, CC BY-NC 2.0
    2. 2. Introductions….Jane Emma PhD in history /  Far too long as a information science student Interests: E-learning,  Interests: learner copyright, information agency, academic /digital literacy / social development, literary media theory/philosophy, uncertainty, liminality
    3. 3. A New Curriculum for Information Literacy(ANCIL) Arcadia Research Fellowships May-July 2011 Understand the needs of undergraduates entering HE over the coming 5 years Map the current landscape of information literacy Develop a practical curriculum and supporting resources Image: mcginnley, CC BY 2.0
    4. 4. Other research DELILA & CoPILOT:  End-user interface OERs & IL testing LASSIE: libraries and  Cambridge 23 Things social media  Integrated IL for DL MIDESS, DELIVER… students Access to Core Course  Peer Training and Materials (UCL) Support scheme NewsAgent (eLib)  Open Access and Creative Commons
    5. 5. Today’s session Why do research as a practitioner? What is your research environment – and what might stand in your way? How might you get started? Image: Kevin Dooley, CC BY-NC 2.0
    6. 6. Discuss … Why do research as a practitioner? Why might it be useful?
    7. 7. Why we do research Inevitability in certain roles - project work Improves credibility in own institution Personal curiosity, desire to express and engage, striving for improvements Enjoyment: new people and places
    8. 8. Today’s session Why do research as a practitioner? What is your research environment – and what might stand in your way? How might you get started? Image: Kevin Dooley, CC BY-NC 2.0
    9. 9. Discuss … What do you think the challenges of carrying out research as a practitioner might be? What or who might get in your way? What would your ideal research environment be like? Image: Lynn Gardner, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    10. 10. Some challenges we have found….. Finding time and space - the day job gets in the way of research and writing! Not a recognised part of librarian’s remit Lack of support from senior management and/or colleagues No budget But you need to focus on how you are going to make it happen in the environment you have!
    11. 11. Today’s session Why do research as a practitioner? What is your research environment – and what might stand in your way? How might you get started? Image: Kevin Dooley, CC BY-NC 2.0
    12. 12. 1. Find your thinking space Images: (l) © Jane Secker; (r) John Althouse Cohen, CC BY-NC 2.0
    13. 13. 2. Modify your attitude to time Image (l) © Jane Secker
    14. 14. 3. Build a partnership Images © Jane Secker
    15. 15. 4. Look out for funding opportunities
    16. 16. 5. Find your niche (love your research) Images: (l) © Jane Secker; (r) Robbert Van Der Steeg, CC BY-SA 2.0
    17. 17. 6. Develop your online identity
    18. 18. 7. Present your ideas early and let themgrow Image: ashleigh290, CC BY 2.0
    19. 19. 8. The final step: academic publication Image: lel4nd, CC BY 2.0
    20. 20. 8. The final step: academic publication Images: (l) zoe52, (c) lel4nd, (r) dylan17: all CC BY-NC 2.0
    21. 21. Today’s session Why do research as a practitioner? What is your research environment – and what might stand in your way? How might you get started? Image: Kevin Dooley, CC BY-NC 2.0
    22. 22. Tomorrow’s research project ... What is your research? What question does it answer (or pose)? Why are you doing it? (= context, impact) How are you doing it? (= method)
    23. 23. What opportunities are there for you to domore research in your day job? What is holding you back? What are you going to do after today?
    24. 24. Thanks! Questions?Jane @jseckerEmma @LibGoddess