Research Methods for Information Research

7. Beyond research methods

7.9 Finding out about research methods

There are several more or less readable general publications on qualitative or quantitative research methods which are of use in library and information research settings. Two works that I regularly recommend are Judith Bell’s simple but sound introduction to Doing your research project written for the Open University27and, for people with a more specific focus, Robert K Yin’s Case study research.28 If you want a more general round up of how to design and manage library and information research projects, Nick Moore’s How to do research29 may help and there are other ‘how to do it’ guides available such as Gorman and Clayton’s Qualitative research for the information professional 30 or Powell and Connaway’s Basic research methods for librarians31. Interestingly, even these few citations draw in direct experience from three Continents, pointing up one of the issues for potential library and information researchers. Not only can we draw upon practice from many countries but there is useful material available within a range of academic disciplines. Which brings us to the Internet.

Finding research methods e-resources

One area of the Internet that has blossomed in recent years is the availability of good ‘introductory through to expert’ guidance material on all aspects of research methods. Online books and journals, such as Mitchell and Jolley’s Research design explained32 or the Information research33 e-journal are becoming more frequent and, fortunately, this growth has been accompanied by a burgeoning of websites offering guidance to what is available. Here, the range of potentially useful disciplines and methodologies comes into play: a quick round up of useful sites covers:

  • business research (US Academy of Management’s RMWeb34 website of the Research Methods Division)
  • the social sciences generally (Research Resources in the Social Sciences35, including its very own search engine)
  • social research (Bill Trochim’s Center for Social Research Methods36 or Resources for Methods in Evaluation and Social Research37 selected by two staff at the University of New York, Albany)
  • information systems research (Qualitative Research in Information Systems38 – a subsidiary site of MIS Quarterly, and which claims to offer “useful information on the conduct, evaluation and publication of qualitative research”)
  • educational research (offered by the BUBL39 Gateway educational research section which includes some research methods resources, for example covering action research)
  • research methodologies (Kay Vandergrift’s Research Methods on the World Wide Web40, offering “sites selected because they address methodological issues and theories”)

An interesting pattern here is the extent to which these sites are put together and maintained by individual academics. Is this the ultimate in community service, “my neighbourhood is the World”, or are they suffering from Advanced Linnaean Syndrome?

What about the library and information research methods fraternity? Continuing the pattern of useful websites being constructed by individuals we have Researching Librarian41, covering “resources to assist librarians undertaking research” maintained by Kerry Smith at Misissippi State University. Finally, for the broader information research and related areas there is, covering information management, information science and information systems. This site offers access to a hugely valuable series of free Electronic Resources for Information Research Methods42.

27. BELL, J. Doing your research: a guide for first-time researchers in education and social science Buckingham Open U. Press 4th ed. 2005 ISBN0 13 9780335215041

28. YIN, R. K. Case study research: design and methods 3rd ed. London: Sage 2003 ISBN 9780761925538

29. MOORE, N. How to do research: the complete guide to designing and managing research projects 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing 2006 ISBN 9781856045940

30. GORMAN, G.E. and CLAYTON, P. Qualitative research for the information professional: a practical handbook 2nd ed.London: Facet Publishing 2004 ISBN 9781856044721

31. POWELL, R.H. and CONNAWAY, l.S. Basic research methods for librarians 4th ed. Libraries Unlimited 2004 ISBN: 9781591581031