A Case Study of Periodical Use by Library and Information Science Students

Article excerpt

There is a lack of information in the literature about the sources used for research by modern Master of Library and Information Science students in the United States, and so the objective of this project is to understand the use of periodical articles by these students. Specifically: do articles play a major role in student research, how current are the articles cited, and can a core group of periodicals be identified? 192 capstone papers from 2005-2010 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were sampled for a bibliographic analysis. The results show that periodical articles do play a significant role (making up 48% of all references) and are fairly current (49% of all article citations were from within five years). This study identified four core LIS periodicals among its results: The Journal of Academic Librarianship, College & Research Libraries, Library Journal, and Communications of the ACM. Finally, 85% of all periodicals were cited by only one student, indicating that MLIS students use a broad variety of periodicals for their research.

Keywords: bibliometrics, use studies, periodicals, serial publications, theses, library schools

Introduction

Master's degree students in LIS programs have access to a wide variety of resources through their campus libraries. The goal of this study is to better understand what resources students use out ofthat abundance.

This study is significant because the researcher has found no bibliographic analyses conducted of LIS students from the United States since 2000. Only two of the four existing American studies (all pre2000) specifically studied master's degree students. A comparison of recent study results demonstrates that there is a difference in source-use among students in the different countries, and therefore it may not be possible to apply the findings of those studies to U.S. students (Chikate & Patii, 2008; Clarke & Oppenheim, 2006; Keat & Kiran, 2008; Oppenheim & Smith, 2001; Tedd, 2006; Tonta & Al, 2006; Saberi & Nikkhah, 2009).

The purpose of this study is to understand the use of periodical articles in research conducted by master's students in Information Science (MSIS) and Library Science (MSLS) programs, which will be referred to jointly as "MLIS" students. Specifically, this study will determine whether periodical articles play a major role in MLIS student research, define the currency of articles used in MLIS student research, and establish whether there is a core group of periodicals used in MLIS student research.

About SILS Students and Master's Papers

The documents examined are the master's papers from the School of Information and Library Science in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (SILS). There are few online classes taught at SILS, and the majority of master's students take classes full-time and in-person. The "master's papers" are capstone projects, usually completed during the student's final semester. Satisfactory completion of the paper is a graduation requirement for both an Information (MSIS) and Library (MSLS) Science master's degree. For purposes of this study, SILS provided unique access to an entire MLIS student population because all students are required to complete capstone papers.

Existing Literature

The author was able to identify 13 bibliographic analyses of LIS student work from 1976 and 2008, but the nine studies conducted since 2000 were all from LIS schools outside the United States. These countries are India (Chikate & Patii, 2008), Malaysia (Keat & Kiran, 2008), Turkey (Tonta & Al, 2006), Iran (Saberi & Nikkhah, 2009; Riahinia, 2010), and the U.K. (Clarke & Oppenheim, 2006; Oppenheim & Smith, 2001; Tedd, 2006).

Existing Studies From the United States

Out of the four early studies conducted in the United States, only two examined master's (rather than doctoral) students. In 1976, LaBorie and Halperin conducted a bibliographic analysis of doctoral LIS student work at Drexel University, but due to its age, this article has limited modern applicability. …