Naturalistic Inquiry for Library Science: Methods and Applications for Research, Evaluation, and Teaching

Naturalistic Inquiry for Library Science: Methods and Applications for Research, Evaluation, and Teaching

Naturalistic Inquiry for Library Science: Methods and Applications for Research, Evaluation, and Teaching

Naturalistic Inquiry for Library Science: Methods and Applications for Research, Evaluation, and Teaching

Synopsis

This unique volume in the library field takes the methods of naturalistic research developed in anthropology and applies them to information studies and library science. The chapters provide a step-by-step description of the various aspects of naturalistic inquiry, covering the background theories, complete methodology, and practical suggestions for library applications. Clearly written in a direct and engaging style, the book is the first study of natural inquiry to be specifically directed toward librarianship.

Excerpt

Naturalistic inquiry is not new to the social sciences. In fact, it can be argued that the careful and systematic observation of people in their own environments was the first human science method. That does not mean that it has always been central, however. While anthropologists consistently relied on ethnographic observation as the primary tool of inquiry, during the 1940s and 1950s survey, experimental, and quasi- experimental methods--research that concentrated on quantitative procedures--dominated the other social sciences. In the 1960s, naturalistic inquiry experienced the beginning of a renaissance. Sociology led the way. By the early 1970s, naturalistic inquiry, which had mainly been taught through apprenticeship and an oral tradition, began to develop an extensive literature that reflected on theoretical issues as well as providing how-to tips for novices. Courses were taught focusing on these methods and increasingly more sessions at the national meetings of the societies of social science academic disciplines were devoted to reports of the findings of naturalistic research and to methodological papers dealing with this brand of inquiry.

The professional schools of social work, human development, education, business, nursing, and information studies have always lagged behind the academic disciplines in accepting new theoretical and methodological trends. In many universities, these professional schools do not have the status that academic disciplines enjoy. Because of their marginal position, people in these fields tend to be conservative--the imitators rather than the innovators. New developments in an academic discipline may take ten to fifteen years to catch on in a professional field. Thus, in the 1980s, naturalistic inquiry began making a significant impact . . .

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