Students in SJSU Ischool’s graduate program must be able to demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature; in order to demonstrate their grasp of information sciences, their preparedness to become an information professional, and to prove that they have a firm grasp of this core competency. Information professionals need to be able to perform research for many purposes such as for improving collection development, assessment of information literacy instruction, assessment of library services, and even to gather information for the physical design of library spaces. Understanding the multiple types of research methods that exist including quantitative, qualitative, and MMR (Mix Method Research) are necessary to conduct research in the field of library and information science (LIS). LIS is an interdisciplinary field where many of topics information professional research cross over into other disciplines.
Research is essential to the growth and development of the LIS field. Information professionals need to be familiar with the strategies and techniques of research that they might encounter or need to utilize when conducting research in the LIS field, “MLS students need exposure to a wide range of methods given the wide range of professional contexts in which future research may be carried out or encountered”(Hider & Pymm, 2008, p.108). It is important to understand the methods of research to effectively further innovations and services in the field of LIS. Information professional, especially in these increasingly digital times, need to contribute to the research and development of innovative approaches to assist LIS field to remain relevant and to rely on evidence-based practices to solve problems.
Information professional also need to be able to design research for evaluating library services, developing better information retrieval systems, designing better techniques for streamlining information, designing higher quality user interfaces, refining instructional theories, and techniques for Information literacy instruction. The need for research and application of research within the LIS field can be endless especially due to the multidisciplinary nature of the field. The LIS field can also make it difficult to conduct research and to apply appropriate research methods due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field, “The problem is that LIS is a very broad discipline, or meta-discipline, that uses a wide variety of continuously evolving strategies and techniques”(Hider & Pymm, 2008, p.108). As information professionals, we need to understand a wide variety of research methods to carry out research in our field and to assist many disciplines in conducting research. Information professionals need to understand both qualitative and quantitative research methods to be able to apply them relevantly to research projects being conducted in the field of LIS and in the disciplines that the LIS field crosses over.
Information professionals need to be able to design research projects and utilized effective research methods to conduct research that can further the field of Library and Information science. They also need to understand the various types of research including quantitative and qualitative research in order to choose the optimal type of research methods for designing their research projects. According to Leavy(2017), Quantitative research uses, “deductive approaches to the research process aimed at proving, disproving, or lending credence to existing theories. This type of research involves measuring variables and testing relationships between variables in order to reveal patterns, correlations, or causal relationships”. When deciding what type of research method would work best it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the research, the questions needed to determine the answers, and the type of data that is needed to answer the question or solve the problem related to the research. This can help information professional determine which approach would be most effective for the research they are carrying out or allow them to assist other researchers in determining the best methods to carry out their research. Some types of research questions or problems call for quantitative analysis using carefully gathered and structured data such as questions about data usage or questions about how specific user groups utilize library resources. Others demand qualitative methods, using unstructured data such as interviews or open-ended survey questions; to gather information on user’s behaviors or information needs. For instance, quantitative research can be most applicable when, “quantifiable measures of variables of interest are possible, where hypotheses can be formulated and tested, and inferences drawn from samples to populations”(Connaway & Powell, 2010). When information professional research subject areas that require experimentation to test a hypothesis are in line with quantitative research methods. However, qualitative data can be most useful for determining why some individuals or groups do not use library services and how patrons react or respond to library events or workshops. “Qualitative research is generally characterized by inductive approaches to knowledge building aimed at generating meaning. Researchers use this approach to explore; to robustly investigate and learn about social phenomenon”(Leavy, 2017. p.9). Qualitative data can be gathered in many ways such as case studies or participant observations. “Qualitative research focuses on attempting to understand why participants react as they do. Qualitative research tends to apply a more holistic and natural approach to the resolution of a problem than does quantitative research”(Connaway & Powell, 2010. p. 41-42). This type of research can assist information professionals in understanding how various human behaviors and reactions related to the library and information sciences field.
When designing research projects and choosing the type of research that is required for your topic it is important to consider the type of data that will be gathered using research methods. According to Grassian and Kaplowitz (2009),” formal research studies (i.e., comparing instructional methodologies, assessing the long-term effectiveness of your instruction) or for justifying your ILI programs, courses, or classes to your supervisor, administrators, or beyond you may need to collection numerical data that can be statistically manipulated”. In order to conduct research information professionals, need to be able acquainted with data collection methods and data analysis techniques, tools for collecting various types of data. Numerical data or quantitative data allows information professionals to demonstrate data numerically so that trends can be readily identified. Quantitative data can be an effective method to measure library usage e.g. circulation trends, amount of materials checked out, database usage, number of virtual reference questions, or to monitor foot traffic in the physical library. Tracking these trends over time can be revealing to understanding trends in the LIS field such as information trends or service usage trends. It is also important to remember however that as stated by Grassian and Kaplowitz (2009), “qualitative data can be turned into quantitative data through content analysis and well-developed rubrics”. If you are working with a subject matter that is difficult to measure numerically, but to which quantitative data is needed for stakeholders that data can be coded or use of tools such as rubrics can be helpful in transforming data. This is especially applicable to the area of information literacy instruction. Some of the most common types of research methods are content analysis, questionnaire, interview, experiment, and bibliometrics. In Hider and Pymm (2008) study suggested that while researchers in the LIS field employed a wide variety of strategies, they mostly used surveys and experiments, but they also observed that although quantitative research accounted for more than 50% of the articles, there was an increase in the use of qualitative methods in LIS research.
Research can also incorporate multiple types of methods to effectively carry out research. “Mixed methods research (MMR) employs a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods” (Fidel, 2008). MMR can be useful in LIS field because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field it can be helpful to utilize multiple methods to research areas of the discipline that crosses over into other fields. It can also help a research gain a well-rounded understanding of the subject of their research.
“the motivation to mix methods in research is the belief that the quality of a study can be improved when the biases, limitations, and weaknesses of a method following one approach are counter balanced, or compensated for, by mixing with a method belonging to the other approach” (Fidel, 2008).
Using MMR can be a comprehensive way to ensure the validity of the research and to thoroughly approach solving a problem or answering research questions. The complexity of the LIS field requires future research to use increasingly diverse methods of research to help the LIS field conduct research that can help progress the field into the future and created more evidence-based practices for information organizations. The greater understanding information professionals possess related to research methods the more they can engage in scholarly conversations and exploration related to their field. Understanding research method is also critical to aiding information professionals in assisting patrons with their research and selection of research tools or literature needed to complete research in their field of study.
My first piece of evidence is assignment number one from my INFO 285 course on Research Methods in Library and Information Science Topic: Assessment of Information Literacy Instruction. This assignment required students to create an outline of an information literacy assessment project that the students wish to undertake. I chose to undertake assessing information literacy instruction utilizing makerspaces. In this assignment, I outline the project proposal for my information literacy assessment. I included this assignment as evidence of my ability to design a research project.
My second piece of evidence is Assignment 4 from my INFO 285 course on Research Methods in Library and Information Science Topic: Assessment of Information Literacy Instruction. This assignment required students to develop a completed research proposal incorporating elements (and revisions) from earlier assignments. I chose to create a proposal for assessing information literacy instruction utilizing makerspaces in academic libraries. I included this as evidence of my ability to design a research project and demonstrate my understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods.
My final piece of evidence is my research paper for INFO 200 Information Communities. This assignment asked students in INFO 200 to choose an information community to research. Students were asked to explore this information community and write a graduate-level research paper on this community. Students in this course were required to identify an information community to examine, locate and critically evaluate the scholarly and professional literature relating to that community’s information-seeking behavior and needs, gather additional data about your users’ information practices and preferences from community-based resources, and summarize the results. I chose to research the information community of parents of children with Autism Spectrum disorder. I included this assignment as evidence of my ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature.
Information professionals need to have an understanding quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature so that they can facilitate research, assist researchers in utilizing research methods, comprehend complex research practices, demonstrate how to use research tools to library users, and carry out research related to the LIS field. In order to contribute to the LIS field information, professionals must be able to use research methods to carry out research or properly collect data to justify library programs or services to stakeholders. Research is a major component of many positions within the information professions and information professionals need to demonstrate an understanding of research methods and synthesizing literature to effectively perform as information professionals. Information professionals need to understand how to synthesize literature effectively before we can instruct library users on synthesizing information ascertain from literature.
Connaway, L. S., & Powell, R. R. (2010). Basic research methods for librarians, fifth edition. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org
Fidel, R. (2008). Are we there yet?: Mixed methods research in library and information science. Library & Information Science Research, 30, 265-272.
Grassian, E. S., & Kaplowitz, J. R. (2009). Information literacy instruction: Theory and practice(2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman.
Hider, P., & Pymm, B. (2008). Empirical research methods reported in high-profile LIS journal literature. Library & Information Science Research (07408188), 30(2), 108-114. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2007.11.007
Leavy, P. (2017). Research design: Quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, arts-based, and community-based participatory research approaches. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org
Radcliff, C. J. (2007). A practical guide to information literacy assessment for academic librarians. Westport, CT: Libraries unlimited,u.s.