Instant Ideas and Collaboration
When we decided on the topic of LIS student research we knew we wanted approach LISDIS to contribute to the discussion. Happily for us, Michelle Bond, one of the founders of LISDIS – the Library and Information Sciences Dissertations Conference agreed to write a feature post for #uklibchat.
Our #uklibchat on Recent LIS Student Research is on 1st August 6.30-8.30pm BST.
You’ve graduated. You’re all done. You’re (hopefully) settling into your shiny new job. Your dissertation? Forgotten.
This is the sad fate that awaits so much of the dissertation research produced by LIS students. At best, a small amount of this research will be turned into journal articles, conference papers or at the very least, shared in the workplace. With so many students graduating with masters degrees from the 15 CILIP-accredited LIS departments per year, that’s a whole lot of interesting and potentially useful research that may never see the light of day.
It’s increasingly easy to blame library schools for a whole host of issues in LIS, including this one. Shouldn’t the schools be responsible for helping publicise dissertation research? The push to publish or share dissertation research seems to vary widely between library schools, with UCL notably supportive. It should also be noted though, that academic staff already have a huge number of responsibilities, of which supervising dissertation research is only one.
Experiences also vary within schools, dependent on the student’s relationship with their supervisor. My dissertation, for example, was on recreational reading in academic libraries. My supervisor: a professor of chemoinformatics. Clearly we were never going to co-author an article.
My LISDIS colleague, however, had a very different experience. She had a great relationship with her supervisor, shared an interest in their topic and has gone on to publish an article and present at conferences on her research. Our common denominator? We’re both Sheffield iSchool alumni.
I will note here that Sheffield have an extremely useful masters dissertation database which, once you know about it, is a goldmine (especially for current students embarking on their dissertations). They’re the only library school that I know of that offer this, and it’s well worth checking out, if only to see the diverse range of topics that have been researched by iSchool students.
At the moment, most research seems to still be shared using the “traditional” routes such as journal articles and conference papers. This can be a big challenge for people who are new to the profession and who may have less experience of writing for publication or conference presentations. If you don’t have a good support network, which might be fellow LIS professionals, your supervisor or a mentor, it can be very difficult to persevere with the publication process. And, of course, after graduating and settling into a professional role, there often isn’t the time (or motivation) to keep thinking about your dissertation.
There are other, less formal, ways of sharing your research, either while you’re doing it or afterwards; blogging and social media are useful ways to connect with other people who have an interest in your topic. There may also be opportunities to present your research in your workplace, at less formal events such as teachmeets, or to publish a short article in magazines like CILIP Update or the BIALL Newsletter.
This gap in experiences is where LISDIS – the Library and Information Sciences Dissertations Conference – was formed. At an NLPN event in March 2015, we heard Lyn Denny speak about her dissertation research and used the event hashtag to lament the fact that there was so much unseen great research. LISDIS was born that day with the four founding committee members – myself, Jess Haigh, Emily Wheeler and Rosie Higman.
The purpose of LISDIS is to showcase dissertation research and connect it with practitioners. There’s a growing awareness of evidence-based practice in our field and the need for more research to base decisions on. With our conference we hope to bring together new graduates and practitioners so that research has a life after graduation. At our two conferences so far, we’ve showcased many interesting and diverse talks and speakers, from Natasha Chowdory talking about measuring the value of a corporate library to Ian Clark taking on the digital divide; Megan Dyson on The Hybrid Music Library to Katherine Quinn’s epic finale on the challenges of activist librarianship.
We also provide a forum for making connections and potentially getting started on research/publishing your research. At both of our conferences so far we’ve been lucky enough to have Emma Coonan, esteemed editor of the Journal of Information Literacy (and all-round fabulous person), speak on “publication without tears”. Our feedback always shows this is one of the most valued conference sessions, with Emma helping to demystify the process of publishing in journals.
LISDIS is so exciting for us organisers as we get to learn new things at each conference and hear the diversity of our profession firsthand. We’re committed to helping share research and would like to help do this in more and different ways. We already have a number of ideas for LISDIS 2018, including encouraging more people to submit posters. We’re also looking at using our website to showcase blog posts and other materials from those who don’t feel able/willing to publish or present.
Finally, everyone at LISDIS would love to see more LIS dissertation research shared with the wider profession. Whether that’s attending the next LISDIS, looking at Sheffield’s masters dissertations database or seeking out the new graduate in your library, we encourage all practitioners to find out what’s been happening in library schools. We’re really excited to take part in the next two #uklibchats to hear everyone’s thoughts about current student research and how research can be made more accessible to practitioners.
Michelle Bond is an academic liaison librarian at Coventry University and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Information Literacy. In 2015 she co-founded LISDIS, the Library and Information Sciences Dissertations Conference, along with Emily Wheeler, Rosie Higman and Jess Haigh. Michelle tweets personally as @libmichelle and with her co-organisers @LISDISConf.