bird of maps

competency L

understand the nature of research, research methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups


Introduction

The process of searching for information in order to solve a problem or answer a question is research. In order to develop an informed mental model with which to make decisions, we must collect and analyze information via the research process. This may require original research, in which new data is collected and processed, or perhaps information can be gleaned by conducting investigative research that examines the work of others. The research process is relevant to information professionals because we will perform research for our own purposes, and we will also serve as the gateway to information resources for information seekers. Therefore, it is important to be completely familiar with both original and investigative research processes.

Research begins with the identification of a problem or informational need. Original research will call for the formulation of a hypothesis based on the synthesis of any background information that is available on the question at hand. The methods used to collect data during original research are sometimes as significant as the data itself, and it is thus important that both original and investigative researchers are aware of potential biases and factors that may skew the data.

It is also significant that information professionals examine their sources of data and information. Critical thinking is necessary in order to determine that the information is accurate, acceptable, and applicable - for our own purposes, and when selecting resources to be used by information seekers. Once collected, research findings must be interpreted to identify patterns and implications. With this new information, informed decision making can be practised.

As information professionals, research will help us to offer better services to our users. When we examine the specific needs and informational resource requirements of our user groups, we can conduct research that will help us determine which services to offer to meet those needs. In this way our decisions will be informed, specific, and responsible. When assisting others with their research, our role will be to interpret the characteristics of the research question and utilize our understanding of the research process to locate a spread of information that is useful to the information seeker.

Evidence

To demonstrate my competency in understanding the nature of research methods, I am submitting a group paper from my Research Methods in Library and Information Science course. This paper also serves as evidence of my comprehension of original research. The paper is a research proposal describing a study intended to determine if digitizing library items that show little use in a physical form would experience increased usage from the same user group if offered in digital form. The paper discusses our hypothesis, our proposed methods, and how the findings of the research will be useful: the findings would guide collection management and service-providing decisions, and theoretically guide the course of a digitization project. Communication was fluid among group members throughout the course of the design of this study, and I was responsible for articulating our proposed research methods and for designing the proposed user surveys.

To illustrate my competency in using informational resources to conduct investigative research, I am submitting two research papers that focus on meeting the needs of two user groups. These papers demonstrate that I am able to identify an informational need and to retrieve and synthesize relevant information with which to make informed decisions.

The first paper, composed for my Seminar in Information Science: Digital Libraries course, describes considerations that must be taken to make web pages and digital libraries accessible to visitors with disabilities. I located information resources and papers specific to this topic in order to identify accessibility guidelines that would be beneficial for developers of web sites and digital libraries to adhere to, in order to include all potential visitors equally.

The second paper that I am submitting was composed during my Information and Society course. After learning through our coursework that traditional reference desk services are receiving decreased use by library visitors, I researched and reported on alternative and modernized reference services that can be provided to library patrons. This information is valuable for library reference providers wishing to make decisions about expanding their reference services.

Conclusion

Research is a service that we provide and something that we must also conduct in order to provide excellent service to information seekers. With the evidence provided, I have demonstrated that I am familiar with the research process, understand that nature of research methods and findings, and am able to synthesize information to support informed decision making. As something so fundamental to being an information professional, I expect to use these research skills consistently throughout the course of my career.