Practical Tips for Facilitating Research

Mar 2016 | 288pp

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Practical Tips for Facilitating Research

Moira J Bent

This practical guide offers innovative tips and reliable best practice to enable new and experienced library and information professionals to evaluate their current provision and develop their service to meet the evolving needs of the research community.

Interacting effectively with information is at the heart of all research, consequently information professionals have a key role to play in facilitating the development of researchers who are able to operate confidently and successfully in the information world. 

Grounded in current theory and informed by practitioners from around the world, this practical book offers a wide range of ideas and methods to assist library and information professionals in developing and managing their role in the research environment. 

Part of the Practical Tips for Library and Information Professionals series, the book is organised into eight sections:

  • landscapes and models
  • structures and strategies
  • places and spaces
  • library staff roles
  • collections
  • specific interventions in the research process or lifecycle
  • teaching approaches
  • information literacy skills workshops and programmes.

Readership: Academic liaison librarians, research support librarians and all library and information professionals who work with research staff and students.

1. Introduction

  • Introduction
  • My story
  • About the book
  • Context
  • Terminology
  • Structure of the book
  • How to use the book
  • A note about references
  • References and further reading

2. Section summaries

  • Landscapes and models (Section 3) 
  • Structures and strategies (Section 4) 
  • Places and spaces (Section 5) 
  • Staff (Section 6) 
  • Collections (Section 7) 
  • Specific interventions in the research process or lifecycle (Section 8) 
  • Teaching approaches (Section 9) 
  • Information literacy skills workshops and programmes (Section 10) 

3. Landscapes and models

  • Ensure you understand what ‘research’ is
  • Ensure you understand who researchers are
  • Make reference to researcher development models when appropriate
  • Keep up to date with information literacy models and theories
  • Learn about threshold concepts
  • Think about research lifecycles
  • Research assessment

4. Structures and strategies

  • Collaborate with other sections of the organization
  • Develop the library as a publisher
  • Define library staff roles and library structures
  • Develop a research data management strategy 
  • Generate income from research activity

5. Places and spaces

  • Host research events in the library
  • Engage distant researchers in real time
  • Develop research zones
  • Host research exhibitions in the library
  • Get involved with local research conferences and events
  • Be a secret shopper
  • Become an embedded librarian
  • Go on tour
  • Join virtual research communities

6. Library staff roles

  • Assess and develop staff skills and expertise
  • Become an author yourself
  • Write book reviews
  • Become a researcher yourself

7. Collections

  • Develop modern research collections
  • Promote special collections as a unique selling point
  • Explore alternative document delivery models
  • Involve researchers in enhancing research monograph collections
  • Exploit the modern collection
  • Explore access to shared research collections

8. Specific interventions in the research process or lifecycle

  • Identifying opportunities in research workflows
  • Make early contact with the research community
  • Attend research group meetings
  • Communicate your message effectively
  • Contribute to research proposals
  • Charge for literature searches
  • Systematic reviews – get involved in the planning process
  • Systematic reviews – advise on resources
  • Systematic reviews – help with writing up
  • Engage with research data
  • Advise on data management plans
  • Facilitate the writing process
  • Make researchers aware of what editors and publishers want
  • Develop awareness of fraudulent publishing practices
  • Facilitate a Community of Writers
  • Assist with open access advocacy
  • Do some research into open access issues yourself 
  • Create open access and publication process flowcharts
  • Promote your institutional repository
  • Create unique researcher identifiers
  • Bibliometrics
  • Assist in tracking citations
  • Publicize research output
  • Celebrate theses

9. Teaching approaches

  • Learn some teaching theory to enable you to plan for successful teaching
  • Track activity to help identify points of need in the research lifecycle
  • Aim for just-in-time teaching
  • Offer individual consultations
  • Gain prior knowledge of participants
  • Involve researchers in teaching
  • Video personal stories
  • Teach the teachers
  • Deliver short focused sessions 
  • Involve employers

10. Information literacy skills workshops and programmes

  • Holistic information literacy programmes for researchers
  • Generic information literacy skills programmes
  • Online resources and programmes
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Making an impact workshops
  • Writing workshops
  • Open Access workshops
  • Workshops on ethics, licences and contracts
  • Social media workshops
  • Bibliometrics workshops
  • Workshops alerting to fraudulent publishing practices and misleading metrics in workshops 
  • Research data management workshops

11. Bibliography

"Comprehensive and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, organization, and presentation, "Practical Tips for Facilitating Research" is strongly recommended for library and information professionals who work with research staff and students and an essential, core addition to college and university Library Science reference collections and supplemental studies lists."
- Midwest Book Review

"... a book that offers a variety of approaches, insight, and real-world examples that work – exactly what you need whether you are searching for a simple solution to quickly improve services, or ideas to help inform and shape a more fundamental or strategic change."
- Michelle Dalton, Libfocus

"Benefitting from Bent’s exhaustive research and robust content, this volume will be very useful for academic librarians, particularly subject and faculty liaisons and instruction librarians."
- Library Journal

"Practical Tips for Facilitating Research is an excellent tool for librarians who want to be a resource for the research groups within their facilities."
- Vicki Harden, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries

"I would highly recommend this book to any librarian working with researchers in the health sciences, and to many of our colleagues working in other disciplines, for that matter. The book is short, realistic, practical, easy to read, and extremely useful for generating ideas. As for me, I am still starry eyed. I know I will be referring back to this book and my copious marginalia for the foreseeable future—that is of course until my colleagues start asking to borrow my copy!"
- Sarah May Visintini, Berkman Library, University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association

Moira Bent is Faculty Liaison Librarian and National Teaching Fellow at Newcastle University and is one of the authors of the 2007 Facet book, Providing Effective Library Services for Research.


Landscapes and models (Section 3)

The book begins with a section on theory.  Having a clear understanding of the context in which they operate is essential for librarians if they wish to truly engage with their research community. A consideration of the different environments or landscapes through which researchers move can provide a helpful perspective. Landscapes can be personal and internal or objective and external, but they will all overlap to a greater or lesser extent to create an individual research landscape which influences the outcome of any research.

An individual research landscape therefore, is a complex blend of different external factors and individual attributes and the picture is further complicated when additional definitions, models and frameworks are introduced. Even seemingly straightforward terms such as ‘research’ and ‘researcher’, which seem self-explanatory, can mean different things in different situations. By unpicking these concepts and relating them to recognized frameworks and models, a more holistic approach to working with the research community can be developed. In order to achieve this, we need to be aware of all the current frameworks, theories and landscapes relating to research which pertain in our individual situation.


Structures and strategies (Section 4)

In many countries research is now defined, not in terms of the public good or the furthering of knowledge, but of ‘economic legitimacy’ (Hansson and Johannesson, 2013). In such a market-orientated approach, where performance measures for research are focused on producing an output, what are the implications for the library? We need to be able to deliver the expertise, services and resources that will be differentiators in research lives, so the focus needs to shift from the library and what librarians do to the needs of the scholars. However, the challenge for many libraries, especially in universities, is to tackle the ‘rigidity of the university system’ and its attitude to the role of the library (Hansson and Johannesson, 2013). How can we manage the ways we respond to external drivers so that our libraries remain of vital importance within our organizations? Luce (2008) suggests librarians can take an active role as convenors amongst different stakeholders, developing a ‘new paradigm of collaboration and partnership’.


This section highlights some of the ways in which a research library might develop new or different strategies to cope within such a fluctuating space.


Places and spaces (Section 5)

This section suggests ways to attract researchers into the library building as well as ideas for librarians to reach out, both physically and virtually, to the research community. It’s about the places and spaces in which to engage with the research community.

 ‘I try to meet all new heads of department and heads of research groups – one lady was very difficult to pin down and when we finally met she made it clear that she felt the library had no place in her life. She told me she never used it, as everything she needed was free. I discovered that she always worked on campus and was obviously making use of many electronic library resources, but I couldn’t make her understand that she only had access to them because we were providing them for her.’ (Jennifer Peasley, La Trobe University, Australia).

Jennifer’s experience is not uncommon; as the virtual library provides most resources, certainly in STEM subjects, researchers have little need to visit the physical library building at all and the library as a place becomes much less visible. If researchers are no longer coming to us we need to be ever more enterprising in devising opportunities to engage.


Staff (Section 6)

Section 6 addresses the importance of library staff being perceived as equals in the research environment, of being proud of who we are and what we contribute to the research process, of not being self-effacing or reluctant to get involved. Key to this idea is that of terminology, of dispensing with words such as ‘support’ and instead, using ideas such as ‘engage’ and ‘facilitate’. Rather than being ‘research support’, librarians are now describing themselves as ‘research partners’, ‘research liaison librarians’ or simply ‘research librarians’. Our position in the world of research is determined by our own perceptions of what we can contribute as much as it is by the expectations and opinions of researchers themselves.

Partnering, engaging, facilitating: this is easy to say in the abstract, but in practice how can it be achieved? Much relies on staff confidence in their abilities as well as experience and the development of relevant skills and expertise. However, this is not a quick fix: time is needed for LIS staff to learn and develop and yet more time to demonstrate to researchers where we fit into their world and to be accepted in these more complex roles. Libraries need an increasingly diverse and talented staff (Lowry et al., 2009) with a range of new skills and competencies (Puente, 2010). This section addresses some of the ways in which this might be accomplished.


Collections (Section 7)

As the amount of information available has increased exponentially in recent years, libraries can no longer afford either resources or space to store everything that may be needed. National and legal deposit libraries provide essential back-up services but the reputation of a university research library rests on the uniqueness of its assets and their importance and relevance to the research business of the institution.

Managing collections effectively is therefore a key contribution to the research process and is not a passive role. There is still a place for active, systematic collection building, although perhaps in a more discerning way than might have been common in the past, when size of the collection was an indication of quality. Exploiting and promoting available resources and ensuring researchers know how to access them is of paramount importance. Modern collection development is about ensuring that we create hybrid libraries that contain, or enable access to, many forms of resources, finding ways in which to stay relevant when scholars turn to Google first. This section includes ideas for exploiting and developing research collections.


Specific interventions in the research process or lifecycle (Section 8)

While Section 5 identifies some of the places and spaces in which to engage with researchers, this section considers some opportunities for library mediation within the research lifecycle or process itself. Inevitably there is overlap, as what you do may be influenced by where you do it, but the focus in this section is on opportunities for engagement at different stages of a researcher’s research and learning life . Interventions may involve providing specific information or resources, working with researchers for a specific outcome, engaging with the research community to learn about their research, advising on dissemination, or something else entirely. The chances that arise will be dependent on the combination of landscapes within which the researcher and librarians are operating, the different contexts that apply and the prevailing organizational culture. Although no two libraries will be exactly the same and the research community will have individual characteristics, there are similarities and key stages within the lifecycle that lend themselves to contribution from libraries.


Teaching approaches (Section 9)

Only a relatively small number of librarians who teach have formal teaching qualifications and there are still some library and information science courses that do not include this aspect of the role. Consequently, many librarians tasked with this activity shy away from it altogether or revert to the safety of a training role. Although very useful and indeed often essential, training is easy; it’s purely about explaining how to do something or showing someone how something works. Teaching, however, is different. It’s about education, about learning, about crossing thresholds and dealing with troublesome knowledge (Meyer and Land, 2003). Librarians who truly teach, therefore, are developing more information-literate researchers; we are challenging researchers to reflect on their place in the information world and to consider how they can develop as ‘informed researchers’ (Bent et al., 2012)

This approach can seem daunting at first, but in reality there are few librarians who don’t embrace the concepts underlying information literacy, even if they may use different terminology to describe it. Translating these ideas into teaching researchers is the tricky part but librarians need to have the confidence that their message is important and believe that training is not sufficient. In actuality, teaching and training are inextricably linked; for example, when demonstrating a database, the training part comprises how the database works (click here and this happens), the teaching part is about the critical approach a researcher takes in choosing this specific resource, hence understanding about the world of information available, the understanding of the search strategy and the evaluation of the results.

Having a teaching qualification or following a basic course on teaching skills is invaluable for librarians who teach. Developing an understanding of pedagogy will underpin your teaching and help you to understand why different approaches have different levels of success. In addition, you’ll learn many practical skills about dealing with small and large groups, presentation tips and the use of technology, to name just a few.

Teaching well is all about preparation, knowing your topic and knowing your class, planning for the unexpected, but there are always new ideas and new approaches – no one ever stops learning to teach. The tips in this section describe just a few ideas of different ways in which library staff might approach teaching researchers.


Information literacy skills workshops and programmes (Section 10)

Section 9 considered approaches to teaching situations and the different methods that can be used. This section focuses on the content, with practical ideas on material that can be used and adapted. Various stages of the research lifecycle offer opportunities for educating researchers and librarians have approached them in different ways. It’s not always easy to underpin a training session with a more holistic approach because, as Kroll points out, ‘researchers prefer easy solutions that are adequate and not optimal’ (Kroll and Forsman, 2010) Finding a balance between adequate and optimal relies on understanding the audience, their values and pressures and addressing these issues, whilst at the same time raising their awareness of issues they may never have considered before.

In 2014, a query posed to the Lis-researchsupport mailing list by Helen McEvoy from Salford University elicited a wide range of examples of titles of workshops currently being delivered in the UK. They included: article processing charges, appraising data, bibliometrics, citation searching, collaboration tools, communicating your research, copyright, IPR, data management planning, ethics, searching, impact, open access, plagiarism, referencing, referencing tools, RDM, social media and more. Some of these are represented in this section, others are listed here as inspiration.


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