Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Researchers of Tomorrow (By Liz Brewster)

A snappy title for a project, you have to admit. This three year British Library /JISC project aims to study the research behaviour of 'Generation Y' doctoral students. Running from 2009 – 2012, the project consists of a longitudinal cohort study of 60 PhD students from the UK – of which I am one.

To qualify to be in ‘Generation Y’ for the purpose of this project, the research team defined the term to include those born between 1982 – 1994, who completed seven years of secondary education in a UK secondary school. Using a variety of methods including telephone interviews, workshops and online fora, the project focuses on information-seeking behaviour, analysing the habits of ‘Generation Y’ researchers in online and physical research environments, and assessing their usage of library and information sources on and off line. The project was commissioned following the ‘Google Generation’ report published in 2008.

I think the project is interesting for two reasons:
-   As a cohort study of information seeking behaviour, it will inform practice internationally, and will help Universities to think about how they support researchers;
-   From a personal perspective, it’s been a really useful way to think about my own research and track my own progress.

Meeting students from other universities and disciplines has made me realise how different it is being an information professional doing a PhD, and how many sources of information I just take for granted which others don’t use. It’s also opened my eyes to other resources and tools that people use as a matter of course, which might be useful for me.

As a participant in the project, I’ve been asked to blog on various topics – the supervisory relationship, commenting on articles in the press, sources of information, referencing tools, how I organise my resources and my time, my use of other university libraries, how I handle information overload, and what the key challenges of my PhD have been. It’s been interesting to reflect on my own work, and to compare my experiences with those of others.

For more information on the project, various project reports are available here.

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