Applications Of Social Research Methods To Questions In Information And Library Science Pdf

applications of social research methods to questions in information and library science pdf

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

Library and information science LIS is a very broad discipline, which uses a wide rangeof constantly evolving research strategies and techniques. The aim of this chapter is to provide an updated view of research issues in library and information science. A stratified random sample of articles published in five prominent journals was analyzed and classified to identify i research approach, ii research methodology, and iii method of data analysis.

For each variable, a coding scheme was developed, and the articles were coded accordingly. Although the survey emerged as the most frequently used research strategy, there is evidence that the number and variety of research methodologies have been increased.

There is also evidence that qualitative approaches are gaining increasing importance and have a role to play in LIS, while mixed methods have not yet gained enough recognition in LIS research. Qualitative versus Quantitative Research. Library and information science LIS , as its name indicates, is a merging of librarianship and information science that took place in the s [ 1 , 2 ].

LIS is a field of both professional practice and scientific inquiry. As a field of practice, it includes the profession of librarianship as well as a number of other information professions, all of which assume the interplay of the following:. The disciplinary foundation of LIS, which began in the s, aimed at providing a theoretical foundation for the library profession.

LIS has evolved in close relationship with other fields of research, especially computer science, communication studies, and cognitive sciences [ 4 ]. The connection of LIS with professional practice, on one hand, and other research fields on the other has influenced its research orientation and the development of methodological tools and theoretical perspectives [ 5 ].

Research problems are diverse, depending on the research direction, local trends, etc. Most of them relate to the professional practice although there are theoretical research statements as well. The research is multidisciplinary in nature, and it has been heavily influenced by research designs developed in the social, behavioral, and management sciences and to a lesser extent by the theoretical inquiry adopted in the humanities [ 7 ]. Methods used in information retrieval research have been adapted from computer science.

In addition, LIS has developed its own methodological approaches, a prominent example of which is bibliometrics. Library and information science research has been often criticized as being fragmentary, narrowly focused, and oriented to practical problems [ 11 ].

Many authors have noticed limited use of theory in published research and have advocated greater use of theory as a conceptual basis in LIS research [ 4 , 11 — 14 ]. Feehan et al. This lack of theoretical contributions may be associated with the fact that LIS emanated from professional practice and is therefore closely linked to practical problems such as the processing and organization of library materials, documentation, and information retrieval [ 15 , 16 ].

In this chapter, after briefly discussing the role of theory in LIS research, we provide an updated view of research issues in the field that will help scholars and students stay informed about topics related to research strategies and methods. To accomplish this, we describe and analyze patterns of LIS research activity as reflected in prominent library journals.

The analysis of the articles highlights trends and recurring themes in LIS research regarding the use of multiple methods, the adoption of qualitative approaches, and the employment of advanced techniques for data analysis and interpretation [ 17 ]. Theory has been defined in many ways. The role of theory in social sciences is, among other things, to explain and predict behavior, be usable in practical applications, and guide research [ 25 ].

According to Smiraglia [ 26 ], theory does not exist in a vacuum but in a system that explains the domains of human actions, the phenomena found in these domains, and the ways in which they are affected. He maintains that theory is developed by systematically observing phenomena, either in the positivist empirical research paradigm or in the qualitative hermeneutic paradigm. Theory is used to formulate hypotheses in quantitative research and confirms observations in qualitative research.

The purpose of the taxonomy was to demonstrate the relationships among the concepts of research, theory, paradigms, and phenomena. Researchers assign symbols digital or iconic representations, usually words or pictures to phenomena, and meaning to symbols, and then they conceptualize the relationships among phenomena and formulate hypotheses and research questions.

Various levels of theories, with implications for research in library and information Science, are described. In fact, it may not be viewed as a theory but rather be considered as a research hypothesis that has been tested or even a research finding [ 16 ].

Their difference lies in the ability to structure generalizations and the potential for explanation and prediction. According to the authors, most research generates substantive level theory, or, alternatively, researchers borrow theory from the appropriate discipline, apply it to the problem under investigation, and reconstruct the theory at the substantive level.

In the revised model, which places more emphasis on the impact of social environment on the research process, research and theory building is surrounded by a system of three basic contextual modules: the self, society, and knowledge, both discovered and undiscovered. The interactions and dialectical relationships of these three modules affect the research process and create a dynamic environment that fosters theory creation and development.

The authors argue that their model will help researchers build theories that enable generalizations beyond the conclusions drawn from empirical data [ 24 ]. In an effort to propose a framework for a unified theory of librarianship, McGrath [ 27 ] reviewed research articles in the areas of publishing, acquisitions, classification and knowledge organization, storage, preservation and collection management, library collections, and circulations. In his study, he included articles that employed explanatory and predictive statistical methods to explore relationships between variables within and between the above subfields of LIS.

For each paper reviewed, he identified the dependent variable, significant independent variables, and the units of analysis. Recent LIS literature provides several analyses of theory development and use in the field. In a longitudinal analysis of information needs and uses of literature, Julien and Duggan [ 28 ] investigated, among other things, to what extent LIS literature was grounded in theory. Results showed that only Pettigrew and McKechnie [ 29 ] analyzed journal articles published between and to determine the level of theory use in information science research.

They found that Information science itself was the second most important source of theories. Although it is possible that conceptual differences regarding the nature of theory may be due to the different disciplinary backgrounds of researchers in IS, other themes emerged from our data that suggest a general confusion exists about theory even within subfields.

Numerous examples came to light during our analysis in which an author would simultaneously refer to something as a theory and a method, or as a theory and a model, or as a theory and a reported finding. In other words, it seems as though authors, themselves, are sometimes unsure about what constitutes theory. Questions even arose regarding whether the author to whom a theory was credited would him or herself consider his or her work as theory p.

Kim and Jeong [ 16 ] examined the state and characteristics of theoretical research in LIS journals between and Results demonstrated that the application of theory was present in Moreover, it was evident that both theory development and theory use had increased by the year. Information seeking and use, and information retrieval, were identified as the subfields with the most significant contribution to the development of the theoretical framework.

For this purpose, they developed a theory talk coding scheme, which included six analytical categories, describing how theory is discussed in a study. The intensity of theory talk in the articles was described across a continuum from minimal e. Another point the authors made was about the multiple terms used in the articles to describe theory. It is evident from the above discussion that the treatment of theory in LIS research covers a spectrum of intensity, from marginal mentions to theory revising, expanding, or building.

Recent analyses of the published scholarship indicate that the field has not been very successful in contributing to existing theory or producing new theory. In spite of this, one may still assert that LIS research employs theory, and, in fact, there are many theories that have been used or generated by LIS scholars. LIS is a very broad discipline, which uses a wide range of constantly evolving research strategies and techniques [ 32 ]. Various classification schemes have been developed to analyze methods employed in LIS research e.

Strategies are then divided into quantitative and qualitative driven. Systematic studies of research methods in LIS started in the s and several reviews of the literature have been conducted over the past years to analyze the topics, methodologies, and quality of research. One of the earliest studies was done by Peritz [ 37 ] who carried out a bibliometric analysis of the articles published in 39 core LIS journals between and She examined the methodologies used, the type of library or organization investigated, the type of activity investigated, and the institutional affiliation of the authors.

The most important findings were a clear orientation toward library and information service activities, a widespread use of the survey methodology, a considerable increase of research articles after , and a significant increase in theoretical studies after Comparing these findings to those made by Peritz [ 37 ], Nour [ 38 ] found that the amount of research continued to increase, but the proportion of research articles to all articles had been decreasing since Their analysis revealed a predominance of survey and historical methods and a notable percentage of articles using more than one research method.

Following a different approach, Enger et al. They found that only one out of three of the articles reported any use of statistics. In addition, the authors found that researchers from disciplines other than LIS made the highest use of statistics and LIS faculty showed the highest use of inferential statistics.

An influential work, against which later studies have been compared, is that of Jarvelin and Vakkari [ 15 ] who studied LIS articles published in in order to determine how research was distributed over various subjects, what approaches had been taken by the authors, and what research strategies had been used. The authors replicated their study later to include older research published between and [ 40 ].

The main finding of these studies was that the trends and characteristics of LIS research remained more or less the same over the aforementioned period of 20 years. The most common topics were information service activities and information storage and retrieval. Empirical research strategies were predominant, and of them, the most frequent was the survey. Library services and information storage and retrieval emerged again as the most common subjects approached by the authors and survey was the most frequently used method.

More recent studies of this nature include those conducted by Koufogiannakis et al. Koufogiannakis et al. Comparative, bibliometrics, content analysis, and program evaluation studies were also popular. Information storage and retrieval emerged as the predominant subject area, followed by library collections and management. Hildreth and Aytac [ 43 ] presented a review of the — published library research with special focus on methodology issues and the quality of published articles of both practitioners and academic scholars.

They found that most research was descriptive and the most frequent method for data collection was the questionnaire, followed by content analysis and interviews. Still, they noticed that the majority of reports did not mention the critical issues of research validity and reliability and neither did they indicate study limitations or future research recommendations.

Their results suggested that while researchers employed a wide variety of strategies, they mostly used surveys and experiments. Chu [ 17 ] analyzed the research articles published between and in three major journals and reported the following most frequent research methods: theoretical approach e. Her study showed an increase in both the number and variety of research methods but lack of growth in the use of qualitative research or in the adoption of multiple research methods.

In summary, the literature shows a continued interest in the analysis of published LIS research. Approaches include focusing on particular publication years, geographic areas, journal titles, aspects of LIS, and specific characteristics, such as subjects, authorship, and research methods.

Despite the abundance of content analyses of LIS literature, the findings are not easily comparable due to differences in the number and titles of journals examined, in the types of the papers selected for analysis, in the periods covered, and in classification schemes developed by the authors to categorize article topics and research strategies. Despite the differences, some findings are consistent among all studies:.

Information seeking, information retrieval, and library and information service activities are among the most common subjects studied,. Over the years, there has been a considerable increase in the array of research approaches used to explore library issues, and.

Data analysis is usually limited to descriptive statistics, including frequencies, means, and standard deviations. Editorials, book reviews, letters, interviews, commentaries, and news items were excluded from the analysis.

This selection process yielded articles.

Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science

Sociologists examine the world, see a problem or interesting pattern, and set out to study it. They use research methods to design a study—perhaps a detailed, systematic, scientific method for conducting research and obtaining data, or perhaps an ethnographic study utilizing an interpretive framework. Planning the research design is a key step in any sociological study. When entering a particular social environment, a researcher must be careful. There are times to remain anonymous and times to be overt.

Before beginning your paper, you need to decide how you plan to design the study. The research design refers to the overall strategy that you choose to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring you will effectively address the research problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. Note that the research problem determines the type of design you should use, not the other way around! De Vaus, D. Research Design in Social Research.

Quantitative methods emphasize objective measurements and the statistical, mathematical, or numerical analysis of data collected through polls, questionnaires, and surveys, or by manipulating pre-existing statistical data using computational techniques. Quantitative research focuses on gathering numerical data and generalizing it across groups of people or to explain a particular phenomenon. Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research. Your goal in conducting quantitative research study is to determine the relationship between one thing [an independent variable] and another [a dependent or outcome variable] within a population. Quantitative research designs are either descriptive [subjects usually measured once] or experimental [subjects measured before and after a treatment].

Request PDF | Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science (review) | Barbara M. Wildemuth.

Research Methods in Library and Information Science

Library and information science LIS is a very broad discipline, which uses a wide rangeof constantly evolving research strategies and techniques. The aim of this chapter is to provide an updated view of research issues in library and information science. A stratified random sample of articles published in five prominent journals was analyzed and classified to identify i research approach, ii research methodology, and iii method of data analysis. For each variable, a coding scheme was developed, and the articles were coded accordingly.

portal: Libraries and the Academy

The second edition of this innovative textbook illustrates research methods for library and information science, describing the most appropriate approaches to a question—and showing you what makes research successful. Written for the serious practicing librarian researcher and the LIS student, this volume fills the need for a guide focused specifically on information and library science research methods.


Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, Wildemuth, a professor in the School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, draws upon her extensive experience in order to describe systematically all aspects of the research process as they can be applied in information and library science. She identifies three audiences: master's and doctoral students, who wish aid for their research or support for a research methods course; practitioners, who wish to embark upon their own studies; and experienced researchers, who are considering unfamiliar methods. She does not expect the book to be read cover to cover, although some chapters build upon each other and include references to related chapters. Each chapter, except for the introduction, follows the same basic format.

Research Methods in Library and Information Science

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Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. Wildemuth Published Engineering. For many practitioners, best practices are often developed through significant amounts of direct experience.

Home Consumer Insights Market Research. Different socio-economic groups belonging to different parts of a county think differently. Various aspects of human behavior need to be addressed to understand their thoughts and feedback about the social world, which can be done using Social Research.

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