At LibraryCamp Australia 2012, there was a discussion about building a culture of research in library and information practice. Lots of really practical ideas were shared during the session, and I wanted to follow up here with a few of my ideas on how professionals can get involved in doing research. So here goes!
Every project is an opportunity for research
Starting out a new project with clear, measurable objectives is not only good project management, but it also provides you with an opportunity to publish. Setting objectives and putting strategies in place to collect the data you need to measure achievement of those objectives sets you up to evaluate the success of your project once you hit the finish line. Publishing on the results of your project and your evaluation of its success is a great way to help build the evidence base.
If you’re new to research (or even if you’re not!), collaborating with your colleagues can be a great way to break down some of the fear you might have about doing research and getting published. Collaborate within your institution and beyond it. Connect with people that have similar professional interests and just start talking about what interests you. You’ll be surprised by how many ideas you come up with. Also consider collaborating with academics – we’re always looking for opportunities to work with practitioners on real world projects. Your professional expertise and their methodological expertise will complement each other.
Get a mentor
There are many, many active practitioner-researchers in the library and information professions. Find someone whose work you admire and ask them if they’ll mentor you through the process of undertaking your first research project and looking for publication opportunities. You might already have a professional mentor, but your research mentor is probably a different person: someone who has experience in designing and seeing through research projects and getting published.
Can’t find a research mentor? Drop a comment here and I’ll see if I can help you.
Look at alternative channels
Journals and conferences are probably the two most obvious places to publish the results of your research, but have you thought beyond that? Blogging is a great way to document your research journey and a really valuable way to disseminate your research. Academic publishing timelines are laggy and can mean that your cutting edge project isn’t so cutting edge any more by the time your journal article gets published. A series of blog posts on your findings can help you disseminate any time-critical aspects of your research as you progress.
Get lots of traction out of a single project
Remember, one project does not necessarily equal one publication. You can get much more traction than that out of your research! By publishing some of your findings on a blog, for example, you don’t preclude yourself from publishing about that research in a journal or presenting at a conference. There are always a variety of angles you can use for publications about a single research project. A project I led last year has so far resulted in three publications, and I’ll be publishing again out of this project this year (more than once). Each of these publications focuses on a different aspect of the research and was designed for a different audience. Even after five or so publications, there will still be data (and different views of the data) that I haven’t published on.
But that’s okay, because the other thing you need to remember about research is your data has a longer shelf life than you might imagine. When I first made the switch to academia, I was always in a rush to publish while my data was fresh, but I learned very quickly that I actually have quite a big window of time to disseminate the results of my research. Don’t publish one surface-level view of your research in your haste to get your findings out there. Instead, take a narrower but deeper view of your research in a series of publications over a longer period of time. You’ll do your research more justice this way and your publications will be more useful to others.
Start with a literature review
We’re librarians. We know how important it is to review the literature before we start a project. But instead of just writing up a short literature review in a publication on your findings, consider writing a more holistic literature review before you get started on your research, and publish it independently. Our professional literature could definitely use more of this type of publication. The process will help you focus your research on the gaps in the literature and your review will benefit other researchers. You might consider, for example, publishing a literature review in the new review section of the EBLIP journal.
Do a research degree
If you’re keen to get involved in research, you might like to consider getting a research degree. As librarians and information professionals move into research support, research training is going to be increasingly relevant for practitioners. At VALA a couple of weeks back, research support was probably the hottest topic on the program. Increasingly, information professionals are taking a really practical approach to research support and contributing to research in really tangible ways, through activities like literature searching, grant writing, and advising on publication opportunities.
If your professional qualification is a Graduate Diploma, you might be thinking about upgrading to a Masters. Instead of upgrading by completing more coursework, consider a research degree. The benefits of this in terms of your skills and knowledge are obvious, but the benefits for your wallet shouldn’t be discounted. Masters by research programs are fee-free.
We have an awesome research community at QUT… Come and play with us!
Just do it!
Stop thinking about it, and just do it! You’ve probably got at least one project on the go right now that you could be publishing about. So do it! The Research Applications in Information and Library Studies seminar is a perfect venue to publish research in practice, because the focus of this event is on connecting researchers and practitioners and fostering a culture of research in the profession.
Abstract submission for RAILS8 closes this Thursday, 23 February. You’ve got plenty of time between now and then to prepare and submit a 300 word abstract! The Organising Committee eagerly await your contribution!