Shameless Book Plug

In March 2016, my book Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries was released in the UK by Facet Publishing, and will also be available in the US from the ALA Store and through Amazon.com. It’s a contributed volume full of accounts from amazing librarians about how they support faculty and student research at academic libraries across the globe!

What does “research support” mean? It’s any method by which a librarian (or a related information maven) supports how faculty and students contribute to knowledge in their discipline. This includes some services traditionally in the library wheelhouse (reference or research consultations), but is rapidly expanding to include support for GIS projects, better metadata, and more. For more about this topic, see the video below.

Who should read this book?

  • Librarians, administrators, and other library staff interested in re-thinking their approach to research support.
  • Librarians looking for an international approach to this topic.
  • Library school students interested in emerging forms of academic librarianship.

For more about the book’s content and structure, see the following video.

If you enjoy the video’s spiffy “research lifecycle” graphic, you can also download it as a PDF to print and enjoy as a nerdy decoration for your office, or proudly affix to the front of your home refrigerator.

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Open Source vs. Open Access (vs. Free)

The near-simultaneous rise of interest in open source and open access in the context of academic libraries has made these concepts ripe for confusion. Adding to the confusion is the presence of projects that are both open source and open access. Rather than cringing in silence when these terms are used interchangeably, I’m hoping to clarify the conversation. Note: I’m not an expert in either concept, so please feel free to research more and/or to add your comments. Continue reading

Easier Said Than Done: Dissertation to Article(s)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks (as evidenced by the crickets chirping on the blog / FB / twitter). I’ve been on the prowl for our next NYC apartment, which was such an unexpectedly complex process that it will merit a blog post on its own at some point. I was also briefly in Dallas to deal with our belongings (aka The Storage Unit of Doom) and house there–egads–and I’ve still got work on that end to accomplish. BUT. Here I am, back to academia and writing!

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I’ve been struggling for months now with how to turn my dissertation into articles. Part of the problem stems from the way that social sciences dissertations are divided by functional, rather than topical, chapters. My chapters are titled exactly the same as most dissertations in my field (and the wider social sciences): 1) Introduction, 2) Literature Review, 3) Methodology, 4) Results (the data), and 5) Discussion (or conclusions, implications). By contrast, my master’s thesis in art history was great fodder for insta-articles (ah, the humanities!) because the chapters were topical: 1) introduction, 2) history, 3) iconography, 4) locations/types of images, 5) image function in the Catholic Mass.

My dissertation was a big project, something that needs to be broken down into digest-able chunks to work as articles. However, since I didn’t have to divide up the project initially, conceptualizing this after the fact is difficult. The distilled version of my dissertation study is this: I studied the education and other preparatory methods experienced by academic library administrators, and looked at how valuable/relevant they perceived each method to be, related to their academic leadership as administrators. My initial thought was to write one literature review article and two data-driven empirical articles: one on educational background (degrees earned), and another on the five other preparatory methods. But as I delved into the data, I had trouble separating the educational results from the other methods and began to see that the mentoring preparation might merit an article of its own.

I’m going back to the beginning to re-evaluate my plans. For the education-focused article, I’m going to limit my focus based on results with the greatest potential interest for my audience and impact on the disciplines (of library science and higher education). I may decide the rest of the educational data merits a follow-up article, particularly since I think there would be value in my performing some additional statistical analysis on my existing data. But if I wait to write an article after I perform those analyses, I’ll be putting off publication by months and end up with far too much information for a single article.

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This blog post is sponsored by: Tiny Academic Batman!

I’m waiting to conceptualize the second article until I have a firm outline and draft for this first article. I’ve learned over and over that if I try too much at once, I can get overwhelmed and become completely un-scholarly-productive (a.k.a. “ALL THE THINGS“). Thus, I’m limiting my focus. I’m also dividing my writing time into handy 2-hour chunks, divided by scheduled time-slots for other tasks (including my academic reading–it’s so much easier to keep up with it if I schedule in a few hours a week). I’m planning on starting the literature review / meta-analysis article next, and may actually outline that while I’m working on the first article (after all, there will be some overlap).

I’m finding the most helpful tip to be starting with the abstract. I usually start with the general empirical article outline, which roughly follows the dissertation itself: introduction, lit review, methodology, results/findings, discussion/implications/future research ideas, and conclusion. However, starting with that outline has been frustrating for me this time around–for one, because those headings are so generic. By starting with the abstract, I’m creating a one-sentence summation of the specifics for each section (about five sentences total), which is a far better and more specific guide of what I plan to write.

The other key to my writing productivity is the concept of “draft vomit.” That is, I turn off my inner editorial voice that wants to edit sentences as I type, and simply try to write down ideas as quickly as they come. This is most easily done in short sprints, and it takes practice to loose your inhibitions and simply write. It’s tough enough to do that sort of thing in fiction, but in research, when we have an obligation to cite sources and explain research methods, it can feel flat-out wrong to write so freely. I must continually remind myself that producing content is the key, and that I’ll edit for sources and grammar and rational reasoning later.

Well. It’s a work in progress!

Finally, there’s my own past series on writing  journal articles (from scratch, not from dissertations–but still).

The Digital Humanities & Transforming Scholarly Communication

Scholarship, it is a-changin’. I remember when the majority of the academic blogs I read were anonymous, lest tenure-seeking faculty be mocked for “wasting their time” on such an endeavor. Now I follow many librarians and faculty across the world on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more, their identities and institutional affiliations freely posted. When I finished my MA in Art History, I still had to submit my thesis in hard copy (although I was also one of the first classes to submit it electronically on a one-use CD–remember those?). Sunday, I submitted my final edited dissertation to UNT as a PDF via email. No hard copy, no tangible media, no requirements to print or bind it, ever. Still, there’s debate about “What ‘Counts’” toward promotion and tenure, of these newer scholarly activities and formats–see Ruth Starkman’s article at Inside Higher Ed for a great discussion of the issue. Disseminating your research and discussing it through social media (like Twitter, Mendeley, Academia.edu) is a great way to ensure your research is consumed by others as well as to push it further. Research is a conversation that builds on what others have said before you, and will live on as other discuss your work and your own ideas evolve.

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I’m currently working on disseminating my own research. The article drafting is slow (and will be even slower to publish), but I recently created a Prezi based on my dissertation research (a PDF version is embedded below). I defended my dissertation last fall using a traditional PowerPoint slideshow (see here), but it was a fairly boring way to present my results. I decided to re-configure it in Prezi with the idea of serving three purposes: 1) serving as an interactive abstract of my research than the text-based one on this website, 2) the basis for a more interesting presentation of my results, and 3) the potential to be printed as a research poster. I like the idea of re-using this one item for all three purposes.

This is fairly tame, as far as digital reinventions of the dissertation go. The Digital Humanities departments at CUNY and NYU have some standout work that make me want to sign up for another doctorate–well, not really. But the implications for affecting how research is done in education and library science are potent and exciting.

Last month, I attended a Digital Humanities workshop at NYU called “Thick Mapping and Spatial Humanities.” Todd Presner of UCLA walked us through several DH projects, including Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum. This fascinating project that uses Google Earth and digital versions of Roman statues to create a three-dimensional walk-through of the Roman Forum with period architecture, statutes, and scholarship about the inscriptions on the statues. I remember dreaming about this possibility when I was an art history graduate student, imagining how much richer art scholarship could be by using technology to experience art in its original context. Another project used GIS data, US Census data, community oral histories, video, Google Earth, and photographs to map experiences over time in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

Doctoral students in these areas are completely rethinking the traditional dissertation. Take a look at this introductory video for the CUNY Graduate Center’s New Media Lab, which helps students think through and execute these projects. Check out the virtual space for sonic interaction that one student is creating! 

So how should academic libraries respond to this shift in scholarly communication? I recently presented a case study of how one library is supporting and could further support evolving methods of scholarly communication with an emphasis on open access (click here for Prezi, or see embedded PDF below).

Here are some more related articles from Inside Higher Ed:

AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month)

I’m currently working on copy edits for my dissertation (the last step, hurrah!). Interestingly enough, I’ve already “graduated” according to the Graduate School–curious that this last step of the process comes afterward. Once the edits are final and it’s been uploaded into the UNT Libraries’ Digital Collections, I’ll link to it here.

My other project this month (for #acwrimo) is a chapter for the upcoming book Leadership in Academic Libraries Today, and an article based on some of my dissertation results. One of the most difficult aspects of the article is choosing which results to focus on first. Because of the large quantities of data I gathered, I’m hoping to publish the results in three articles, divided into thematic chunks of data. I plan to focus on the educational results first. I’m still in the stage of tweaking my outlines and adding ideas in bulleted lists under each section.

So much data to process and think about and disseminate through conferences and publishing… and already my brain is pondering the next research project!