Research Methods for Information Research

6. Practitioners as researchers

6.2 Capturing the process

Librarians in one of the Health Authorities tried to draw on people’s prior experience for a training session by asking the health managers, doctors and other health professionals involved to do a work-related Internet search before coming to a session where any problems would be discussed. This session failed – everyone had found something in their search and no problems were reported. The difficulty here is with our ‘completion culture’ in the world of education. When students are given a task or assignment all the attention is usually given to the finished product, whether this is a student essay or a literature search. Not enough attention is normally given to how people achieved their outcome and what went wrong on the way (except in specialist areas like learning maths). As students, we are even led to pretend that what is produced is unproblematic to show how well we are coping with the course. If teachers are interested in helping students to develop better research strategies they have to focus on this and provide tools to help people record what they are doing and what is going wrong. We recommended to the health librarians that they gave people a form to fill in when the next group tackled their Internet search – the result was more problems to discuss and, from a research perspective, more insights into the processes involved.