Developing Research Practitioners: Exploring Pedagogical Options for Teaching Research Methods in LIS

By Alemanne, Nicole D.; Mandel, Lauren H. | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, July 2018 | Go to article overview

Developing Research Practitioners: Exploring Pedagogical Options for Teaching Research Methods in LIS


Alemanne, Nicole D., Mandel, Lauren H., Journal of Education for Library and Information Science


The Library and Information Science (LIS) community is engaged in an ongoing debate about how best to teach research methods in LIS programs, especially considering the challenge inherent in the diversity of student academic backgrounds, as many enter LIS graduate programs with little or no research or statistics background and with anxiety about learning these subjects (Dilevko, 2000). In addition, "many students who do take a basic course in research methods often cannot see the practical applicability of the course" (Berg, Hoffmann, & Dawson, 2009, p. 593). In light of this, LIS research methods courses must explain what research is, why research is done, the purpose of research, and how to use research, and must demonstrate the importance of research in professional settings (Juznic & Urbanija, 2003; Mandel, 2017). This problem is not unique to LIS; Wagner, Garner, and Kawulich (2011, p. 75) identify the lack of a "pedagogical culture" for teaching research methods in the social sciences.

This paper reports on a small study on the effectiveness of a research methods course taught at the University of Rhode Island's (URI) Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (URI GSLIS). The course is offered every fall and spring, and some summers, and at the time of the study all students in the program were required to pass the course. Two faculty members who have taught the course using the same textbook and similar learning objectives collaborated on a research project to evaluate the efficacy of different pedagogical methods for teaching research methods to LIS master's degree students. A survey comprising questions designed to test retention of course learning objectives and to ascertain respondents' views of research and their engagement with research as practitioners was distributed to former students from four semesters of the course. The results show promise for further research in the pedagogy of LIS research methods courses.

This study contributes to the discussion of the role of research methods courses in training LIS practitioners by implementing a research design that may be used for further research into the interplay among pedagogical methods, course outcomes, and professional research practice.

Literature review

This review of the relevant literature covers three areas: the importance of research methods for LIS practitioners, an overview of approaches that have been employed to teach research methods, and the need for new approaches to teaching research methods.

In the United States, a master's degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) is the widely accepted professional degree for librarians (American Library Association, 2018a; Lynch & Smith, 2001). Both the ALA Core Competences for Librarianship and the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies include research (American Library Association, 2018b, 2018c). Research is ALA's Core Competence #6: "fundamentals of quantitative and qualitative research methods" (6A), "central research findings and research literature of the field" (6B), and "principles and methods used to assess the actual and potential value of new research" (6C). The ALA accreditation standards stipulate that the curriculum in a master's program in LIS "emphasizes an evolving body of knowledge that reflects the findings of basic and applied research from relevant fields" (Standard II.2.1). The curriculum standards also include the need to educate librarians who can contribute to the "future development of a rapidly changing field" (Standard II.2.5), which could be taken to mean the ability to conduct research that promotes future development of LIS.

Research is becoming more important for LIS practitioners as professionals: 90% of US/Canadian LIS practitioners read at least one research journal, 50% apply research findings to their practice, and 42% occasionally or frequently perform research either in their job or for the profession (Juznic & Urbanija, 2003). …

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