Library School – Research Methods module

Research Methods was the summer module and was in my opinion the weakest. It was certainly very student-led/flipped classroom/independent learning focused. It was intended to be a prep module for doing your dissertation and also to prepare for doing research in the real world, which is becoming more common for librarians. The entire module consisted of reading the textbook, then writing ‘optional’ posts on the discussion board and a literature review assignment that wasn’t really a literature review.

Thankfully the textbook was excellent (Research Methods in Information, 2nd edition by Alison J. Pickard). Very readable with lots of real-life examples, it covers the major components of planning and undertaking qualitative or quantitative research, and also mixed methods. I didn’t know what the difference was between qualitative and quantitative before reading this book, having mostly done historical research previously, so I had a lot to learn. I highly recommend the book and imagine I will be dipping into it a lot in the future during my dissertation.

The assignment was meant to be a “literature review,” but actually involved selecting a bunch of studies to critique and therefore was not particularly comprehensive, so hence the scare quotes. I did enjoy the process and to be fair it was a good way to cement your understanding of the various research methods. I chose the topic of evaluation of library services for my review. I chose studies with a broad range of research methods to critique. Some studies were very good and some the more you looked at them, the more things you noticed that were problematic. On the one hand, you felt bad for being super critical in the review, but on the other, that is what the tutor wants to see, so you have to make those critiques. Several of the studies were about the LibQUAL method of library evaluation which I find really interesting. It is a gap analysis survey instrument, where you are measuring the gap between users’ expectations and perceptions about the service quality of the library. Another interesting study (Botha et al., 2009) set out to measure the impact of the library service and how users engaged with the library during the research process. ‘Impact’ was defined in terms of the user being changed by the service. The idea was to show the actual benefits of the library service to the user rather than just that the library was effective or efficient or that users were satisfied.

[Some really cool space science this week as British astronaut Tim Peake completed a space walk including a selfie.]

Now onwards, and upwards – I attended the dissertation study school at Northumbria last week which provided a terrific jump start to my dissertation ideas. More to come.

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2 thoughts on “Library School – Research Methods module

  1. Dear Megan, how interesting that you looked into LibQUAL in library science research…its origins are in the SERVQUAL questionnaire developed by marketing professors at Texas A&M in the 1980s…it was an honor to attend the 1986 American Marketing Association Doctoral Consortium at Duke University with Dr. Valerie Ziethaml one of the authors of SERVQUAL. The instrument has been widely adapted for many specialty settings such as measuring service quality in libraries!

    • Yes I stumbled onto LibQUAL after you told me about SERVQUAL! It was developed in the 2000s in the US after libraries tried SERVQUAL but found it wasn’t suited to their context. Now LibQUAL is a global standard for measuring service quality in libraries.

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