Information literacy: a researcher's perspective


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This presentation was given by Sheila Webber at the conference "Information strategies for researchers: where are we making a difference?" organised by CONUL and SCONUL in Dublin on 31 January 2008. The presenter indicates the ways in which researchers vary: firstly by referring to a "7 ages" model identfied by Bent and Webb, and then highlighting further differences in information behaviour. The presenter also briefly identifies her own role as research supervisor, research project leader and individual researcher.

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Information literacy: a researcher's perspective

  1. 1. Information literacy : a researcher’s perspective Sheila Webber Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield January 2008 Sheila Webber, January 2008
  2. 2. 7 ages of research Masters students Doctoral students Contract researchers Early career researchers { Established academic staff Senior researchers { Experts Source: Bent, Webb, & Gannon-Leary; 2008
  3. 3. Variations… • Nature of information – such as spatial or molecular data, where manipulating it is part of being IL • Different disciplines • Different kinds of information behaviour • IL of the team vs IL of the lone scholar • Different research approaches • Different conceptions of research Sheila Webber, January 2008
  4. 4. Quotations from research The following quotations are taken from interviews in a 3 year project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which investigated UK academics’ conceptions of information literacy The research was carried out by Sheila Webber, Bill Johnston and Stuart Boon 20 academics in each of 4 disciplines were interviewed (Marketing, English, Civil Engineering, Chemistry) The research showed that there were variations in conceptions of information literacy between the disciplines As the following quotations show, there was also variations in what “information” was, and what information behaviour academics adopted in their own research: these differences in information behaviour (IB) correspond to findings in previous IB literature This has implications for what IL support different people need and want Sheila Webber, January 2008
  5. 5. Information (what is information to a Civil Engineer?) “uh, it’s, it’s a sort of data that has more meaning to it. So if you had a set of numbers that you could make a meaning to them, they refer to something, then this data becomes information, but if they stay as numbers, then they are not information. That equally applies to language.” (Civil Engineering 09) Differences from what information is in, e.g., English Sheila Webber, January 2008
  6. 6. Example: Chemist “What I do with my research team is that I try to take all the chemistry journals that there are with a few exceptions that we don’t stock, and then divide all those things up between the research team, and the research team have their remit to look at those eight journals all the time, so that we are really on top of the literature as it appears.” “it’s the electronic searches on things like Web of Science, Beilstein, um, and hard searches on Chemical Abstracts and using review data, and also the hard, primary publications as they come out.”(Chemistry 18) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  7. 7. Example: English • Interviewer: So in your own research, do you find that you’ve built up a process or a pattern for finding information? • I often use the internet and a combination of looking at archival information, newspapers, and I also did some work at Oxford, so I use their search catalogue, um… I am sort of old-fashioned in that I’ll collect things when I read papers or magazines, I tend to collect them, you know the hard copies, which is kind of old-fashioned, I think, but I know that I can get something out of a folder or a list that I’ve written up, clippings and notes and that sorts of stuff. So my process works generally around that. • Interviewer: So it’s a bit of print and a bit of electronic? • Yeah. Bookstores too. I tend to go to bookstores and have a kind of… like maybe once a week or more than once a week, I will go and have a look at what’s on the shelves and the sections that I am interested in, just to see the titles and to see what is coming out. (English 05) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  8. 8. Example: Engineering • All right, [pause] I use the Web of Science a lot to find work relevant to my work. I try to keep on top of who is doing what in my area, that sort of thing. [Pause.] I use Google, probably more than I should. I use dictionaries and thesauri when I need them. [Pause.] I have begun to switch more to using online web citations, which brings me back to the Web of Science. It is my main tool, I would say. • Interviewer: Do you find that you have like a pattern or process you go through? • Pattern or process…. I suppose it is kind of a tree structure where I start out with an idea at the bottom and then kind of go up and branch out into different areas and try to build a wider picture. A more comprehensive picture of what it is I am looking at at that time. • Interviewer: O.k., has this pattern or conception, uh, of your work, has it changed over time? • [Pause.] I suppose it must have, mustn’t it? But I don’t know if I could tell you when. I’ve been doing things this way for a long time, probably back to my Ph.D. (Civil Engieering 01) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  9. 9. Example: marketing • I don’t know if it’s a process, but I have a sort of hodge-podge of sources that I visit frequently. I scan them daily and if I see something I might look a little deeper. • Interviewer: What sort of things does that hodge-podge include? • Various journals that I subscribe to, different texts from the library, a number of sources that we get from the library. And then a host of more personal contacts, uh, colleagues, interacting by e-mail with people inside and across the world, generally things like conversations in the coffee room, and something as simple as observation. … • Interviewer: Can you explain that a little? • Sure. Uh, if I put it in the context of information retrieval, it’s taking a more artistic method, keeping it free and chaotic, taking information from a number of sources, almost like doing away with the process and just being open to possibilities. That is something I would like my students to pick up on as well. To open their minds to the possibilities for learning that exist outside the classroom. You can learn a lot about marketing by going down to ASDA or Tesco. (Marketing 20) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  10. 10. Research students: what information literacy concerns do I have as a supervisor? • Judging the information literacy of the student • Knowing what support/services are available • Subject domain and research methods domain • They may be learning through teaching • Developing their research information behaviour Sheila Webber, January 2008
  11. 11. Aspects needing development in research students (differences from mature researchers) “If I had the luxury of the PhD then I might think of using all kinds of channels, but now I generally, and I am trying to write a paper this week, it is about speed and getting through as much information as possible quickly.” (Marketing 8) “The other thing that we use in terms of research setting is that we will have to gain access to the literature very rapidly as it is published and that is not so relevant to the students.” (Chemistry 18) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  12. 12. Aspects needing development … “I think the difference between me and the students in the main—certainly students in their early years—is that I can more easily recognise whether what’s been thrown up is of any use or not… and if it is of any use, then that’s the simplest way I could do it, if it’s not of use, then for a lot of people it’s just trotting down a blind alley. .” (Civil Engineering 15) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  13. 13. May want to map IL programme in relation to frameworks like this, but may also want to use research models like the one in the next slide …. Sheila Webber, January 2008
  14. 14. Choo, C.W., Detlor, B. and Turnbull, D. (1998) A behavioral model of information seeking on the web: preliminary results of how managers and IT specialists use the web. In: C.M. Preston (ed) ASIS '98: Proceedings of the 61st ASIS Annual Meeting: Pittsburgh PA: October 24- 29 1998: Information access in the global economy. 35. Medford, NJ: Information Today. pp290-302. Sheila Webber, January 2008
  15. 15. Research teams: information literacy of the team • Sharing information on resources, across institutions and between team members • Information team: can have complimentary strengths, audit IB as a team Sheila Webber, January 2008
  16. 16. Myself • Nature of information: sometimes new kinds… • Crossing disciplines: support in exploring new territory • Tools & support that help me manage information, given my information behaviour • Sometimes in a team / sometimes lone • Research approach: qualitative (different needs to a qualitative researcher?) • Conceptions of research: focused on outcomes or personal journey? (again may imply different needs) Sheila Webber, January 2008
  17. 17. Sheila Webber Sheila Yoshikawa Photos and text copyright Sheila Webber, January 2008