The Impact of Doctoral Research in Information Science and Librarianship

Project Description and Methods of Investigation

In light of both the elusive nature of impact study and the diversity of aims set out above, the satisfaction of these aims quite clearly demanded a mixture of methods of investigation.

First of all, of course, it was necessary to obtain a list of all Ph.D. students in information science and librarianship (not necessarily in LIS departments) who received DfE awards from 1981 to 1991. The list was sought from the Department of Education and Employment (DfEE) initially, then from the Research and Innovation Centre of the British Library. The considerable difficulties experienced with obtaining the list, and subsequently with finding the current whereabouts of the award-holders, is described in the next section of this report.

While awaiting the required information, a questionnaire was designed to ascertain as precisely as possible the subject area of the award-holders' doctoral research, subsequent publications considered by the award-holders to be relevant to this research, research-related career advancement, and the perceived benefits and/or disadvantages of doctoral research and its aftermath. The design of the questionnaire was helped to some extent by the work of Maite Santos, a Master of Librarianship student at Sheffield in 1996 whose dissertation was entitled: "A citation analysis of PhDs in the Dept. of Information Studies." (A copy of a draft paper on this study is attached as Appendix A) Although both the scope of her work and her sample were quite different from the present study, there were areas of overlap where her questions could serve as a model. Once developed, the questionnaire was sent to each award-holder within the time-frame whom it was possible to locate.

When returned, the completed questionnaires were screened to determine whether in-depth follow-up interviews would be needed. It was anticipated that, due to the complex nature of research impact, many of the questionnaire responses would not be straightforward and unambiguous. Happily, however, this did not turn out to be the case -- those who took the trouble to respond did so conscientiously and with clarity.

The next undertaking was citation analysis of all of the publications listed by the award-holders as relevant to their doctoral studies, to determine the extent to which the original works had been cited in the literature. The citation analysis was done by means of searches on the three ISI citation databases in Dialog: Arts & Humanities Search, Scisearch, and Social Scisearch. Search results revealed interesting differences among the award-holders in terms of the number of times they have been cited and the pattern of the citations. Of the award-holders in the study, two have exceptionally impressive records of citations. Considerable time was spent in the project to analyse the citations of these two scholars, who appear as case studies later in this report.

Last but not least, an analysis was made of the perceived benefits of doctoral research for the researchers themselves, based upon their responses in this section of the questionnaire. Insofar as it was possible to obtain them, perceived benefits to the award-holders' departments and the practice community have been noted where applicable.

Mary Dykstra Lynch and T.D. Wilson©British Library Board 1997