This year I extended my LIS Masters course to undertake research projects equivalent to four course units. I could have graduated last year. You’d think three years part-time would’ve been enough. Some may think ‘Huh? You did what?!’. I’ll say ‘Yep, I may be crazy but it’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my early LIS career’. I kid you not.
I had a burning desire to try out conducting research for myself. I needed to dip my toes in. I wanted to establish myself as a practitioner-researcher. This profession needs more of those. How I will continue to contribute to the professional body of knowledge beyond completion of my Masters, in the likely event of absent employer support, is currently beyond me. I’m yet to figure that out.
The upside of doing research as part of my Masters is that I’m in control. I direct what I wish to find out. With guidance from a research supervisor (mine is fab), I am empowered to question and critically look at the gaps in existing literature and knowledge in areas of interest to me. I’d like to say ‘I found that out’ and ‘This is my piece of the puzzle’. What I have experienced so far, and it’s only Week 8, is that this year of research is like a ‘graduation’ in itself. Conducting research is helping me make the transition from student to professional.
So, the journey so far.
From the beginning of my current research project, I have kept a journal. I set up a private WordPress blog and I write whatever is on my mind about my research project once a week for 20 minutes. I also use the blog as a space to ‘blah’ write. A blank page is daunting to me. But a blog post is conversational, or at least that’s my style, and I’m able to freely jot down my ideas, tease them out and note observations I make from the literature. My journalling time is one for reflection and record how I’m progressing. I’ve never done academic research before, so I thought it useful to record my reactions, emotions and how I deal with set backs. Sure, I probably don’t have the time to spend on this, but by doing this I am able to draw upon lessons learnt and make my experience better next time.
The project brief
My first piece of assessment was a project brief, basically putting together the research questions, design and approach to map out exactly what I’ll be looking at and how I’m going to do it. By Week 2, I thought I was doing pretty well. Week 3 I encountered a set back. One of my research fears was realised – I found the exact same study already done. I was devastated. When I drilled down to why I felt this way, it was because I wanted to be the one who did the study. Probably a kind of ‘rookie’ thing to think and I feel silly now that I reacted that way. I didn’t want to look like I ‘copied’ someone else. My research supervisor reassured me all was okay, that my idea had to have been good if someone else had done it too (and was published) and I could use the study I found as a way to direct my research and potentially fill gaps. Long story short, my project brief was a success. I had developed a roadmap for my research project.
My research project is in the area of evidence-based practice in library and information science. The purpose is to gain an understanding of the role of evidence in informing library and information practice by identifying the types of evidence used by Australian special librarians and explore influences associated with evidence use in daily practice.
The literature review
Right now I’m (trying) completing the literature review. The challenges I have encountered so far are: -
- defining scope – I’m using my research questions to guide me
- communicating my approach so it ‘stands up’ (to scrutiny)
- defining themes – I’m allowing the observations I make about the literature guide me and ensuring I have a set argument and stick to the core purpose of my research
- finding my own voice in extending the literature
This afternoon I challenged myself to write my own thoughts and ideas I’ve already gathered from reading the literature without referring to the literature. I tried to establish my own voice about what I thought the existing literature was missing and what it does and doesn’t do. I don’t think I got very far, but perhaps my journal entry tomorrow night will help relax it a bit.
Huh? I actually have to talk to people I may have never met?! Doing data collection didn’t really hit me until I received my first expression of interest to participate last week. Suddenly this whole data collection thing became real. Thoughts like ‘Really? People want to participate in my research?’ enter my mind. I should be okay, but I’m nervous and anxious. It’s exciting too. I’ll be grateful to participants in my research project for their time and commitment to seeking an enhanced understanding of how evidence is used (or not used) to inform and improve LIS daily practice.
I’m approaching the busy end of my research project. Now is when it will ramp up, with data collection, analysis and reporting. I’m nervous, excited, but I need to be brave.