Thursday, June 07, 2007

"Research Methods in Information"

My latest book to review for LJ is called "Research Methods in Information" by Dr. Alison Jane Pickard and I'm very excited about it. It's a handbook/textbook for those of us working in the information professions which, of course, is right up my alley. So I'm going to try something new here. I'm going to post my notes as I'm reading, more to keep myself organized than for any other reason but also on the off chance that there's anyone out there who shares my interest in research methods who might have a comment or insight that I don't have. Of course, I'll also post a link to the review when it's published.

So, in her introduction, Dr. Pickard lays out the importance of research in the fields of information studies, communications, records management, knowledge management and the related disciplines: (1) increasing the body of knowledge that makes up those professional fields, (2) the need for research skills in professionals in those fields, "Knowledge and experience of research is a fundamental part of what makes the 'information professional' ", (3) to allow practitioners to continue to grow in their professions as well as to better accomplish their tasks (e.g. benchmarking, assessment, strategic planning, and so on).

Next she describes the framework on which the organization of the book rests which she describes as the research hierarchy which moves from the research paradigm on which methodology is based and, in turn, on which the selection of a research method is based, and, in turn, on which selection of the research technique and instrument are based.

The research paradigm is the world view or underlying assumptions about the world that the researcher starts with. The methodology which is either qualitative or quantitative and is distinguished from the research method which is the strategy or approach to the problem taken by the researcher. The technique is an approach to data collection that is dictated by the research question. And the research instrument is the unique operationalization of the selected technique.

Now, rereading what I've written, I can already make two statements. First, I'm going to try NOT to simply summarize the book here. Rather I'm going to try to limit myself to comments about ideas that jump out at me as being noteworthy in some way. And second, I'm already engaged by and in total agreement with the idea that research is not just the realm of scholars who wish to contribute to a body of knowledge but rather research is accessible and achievable and useful, perhaps even necessary, for professionals in the information professions.

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