Identifying a Research Project and Seeing it through to Publication: e-Forum Summary

We are all busy today, wearing many hats and constantly juggling many responsibilities. How can we find time to undertake a research project—let alone get it published? The e-forum provided answers to these questions as participants shared their experiences or posed questions and received input from other participants. The discussion covered each of the steps in the research process, from identifying a research project to submitting the manuscript to a potential publisher. There was discussion about finding collaborators to work with, performing a literature review, identifying publications for submission, submitting proposals for grants and to institutional review boards, using appropriate research methodologies, writing up findings, and responding to feedback from the publisher. An archive of the discussion is available at: http://lists.ala.org/wws/arc/alcts-eforum/2014-05/thrd1.html.

Identifying a Research Project

Research projects sometimes begin because one is asked to do the project as a work assignment, through collaborative work with a teacher, or to gain background for a new assignment at work.

One of the participants asked for ideas on organizing a research project involving a content analysis. A web site was recommended, along with a possible approach from one who had worked on a similar project. Limiting the sample size may be needed due to the time-consuming process involved in analyzing text.

Examples of projects the participants had worked on or would like someone to work on included:

  • Analyzing student papers for different types of plagiarism
  • Conducting a citation analysis of the engineering literature
  • Determining the relationship between the materials budget and circulation
  • Studying the information seeking behavior of various age groups in a school setting

Finding a Collaborator or Team

It was noted that collaboration becomes increasingly important when considering work/life balance issues.  

Several suggestions were made for finding collaborators for research projects: 

The question was raised:  How does one ensure a good fit in a collaborative relationship, especially if you don’t know the person? Some responses were:

  • Start with a lower barrier publication
  • Set up Skype meetings between potential collaborators to get to know one another
  • If working online, rather than face to face, tone down your work style and expectations and try for smaller scale projects
  • Start with a conference presentation or a webinar on a state or regional level
  • Note if the potential collaborator is a serious researcher by their willingness to take on information in all formats (print & electronic)

Performing a Literature Review

The question was asked:  How do you judge how far to take the literature review? Some points were:

  • Use the heading “Select Literature Review” to indicate it is not a comprehensive review
  • Use bibliographies prepared by others researching the same topic
  • Use the periodic literature reviews published in LRTS
  • Use the following guide for a description of common methods for preparing literature reviews - http://instr.iastate.libguides.com/edulitreview
  • Include enough to demonstrate awareness of prior work and illuminate the scope of the issue
  • Cite articles that have been cited repeatedly

Identifying Publications for Submission

Suggestions for identifying potential publications included:

  • Check the journal’s website to determine the content covered and the publication model
  • Check with editors to determine how your topic would fit in their publication, and for possible referrals to other more suitable publications
  • Use the following website (from Indiana Library Federation) - http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ilfonline.org/resource/resmgr/2013_annual_conference/bragging_writes_handout.docx
  • Refer to the following article:  Nixon, J. M. (2014 January). Core journals in Library and Information Science: Developing a methodology for ranking LIS journals.” College & Research Libraries, 75(1), 66-90.
  • Consider the journals for which you are getting Table of Contents alerts, as well as the journals you are citing
  • Consider factors such as 1) scope of the journal, 2) whether your topic has been covered recently in the publication, 3) rankings data - in Ulrich’s, 4) time from submission to publication

Submitting Proposals for Grants and/or to an Institutional Review Board

Experiences were shared about the IRB approval process:

  • Attend IRB training so you will know which projects need review and approval
  • Request expedited review, if needed
  • Check with your IRB for guidance before submitting your proposal, since IRB approval may not be needed for your project

A few comments were made about obtaining grants:

  • Wichita State University: A library staff member received an Amigos Fellowship and Opportunity Award ($4,000) several years ago, through the library’s Amigos membership, to fund a grad assistant for a project. The application was short (about 3 pages).
  • University of Denver: The Morgridge College of Education has been successful in obtaining funding for research and publication. There’s an art to obtaining funding, but almost no literature about the impact of grant funding as it relates to librarians.

Using Appropriate Research Methodologies

The following texts were recommended for descriptions of methodologies appropriate to library and information studies:

  • Applegate, Rachel (2013). Practical Evaluation Techniques for Librarians.
  • Booth, Andrew and Anne Brice (ed.) (2003). Evidence-based Practice for Information professionals: a handbook.
  • Crawford, Walt (2003). First Have Something to Say: Writing for the Library Profession.
  • Fink, Arlene (2002). The Survey Kit, 2nd ed.
  • Hanington, B. and B. Martin (2012). Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions.
  • Manuel, Kate and Susan Beck (2007). Practical Research Methods for Librarians and Information Professionals.
  • Pickard, Alison (2013). Research Methods in Information, 2nd ed.
  • Powell, Ronald R. and Lynn Silipigni Connaway (2004). Basic Research Methods for Librarians.
  • Wildemuth, Barbara M. (2009). Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science

Writing up Findings

Ideas were shared about writing up findings:

  • Literature review: find model papers with literature reviews and see how those are structured and how to make a clear line of argument.
  • Important: find a block of time to focus on formulating thoughts and write, write, write.
  • When finished writing a section, put it aside for a few days and read it over and revise or rewrite.
  • Ask a colleague to read and comment on the draft manuscript.

Submitting the Manuscript and Responding to Feedback

Several comments were made about the submission process:

  • Set a reasonable timeline for submitting the manuscript to a journal and stick to the timeline.
  • Before submitting, read carefully and follow the instructions to authors (e.g., style manual, tables, etc.).
  • Many journals have an automatic submission process. Be sure to follow the steps as instructed. Check 6-8 weeks later for the review status.
  • It is okay to contact the editor, if permitted.
  • An immediate acceptance is rare. Most editors ask for some revisions based on the reviewers' comments.
  • Be open-minded with reviewers’ comments. Reviewers are usually specialists in the field and their comments can help improve the paper.
  • Usually the editor will assign a revision deadline. It is a good idea to set up a timeline to finish the revision and resubmit the paper before the deadline.
  • It is okay not to accept the reviewers’ comments or suggestions. Be sure to include your argument in your cover letter when resubmitting the paper.
  • If the paper did not get accepted, the reviewers’ comments can still be helpful. Revise the paper based on the comments and resubmit it to a different journal.

—submitted by and e-forum moderated by Mavis B. Molto (mavis.molto@usu.edu), Heather Staines (heather.staines@gmail.com), and Cathy Weng (weng@tcnj.edu). This e-Forum was held May 21-22, 2014.