October 28, 2016

Experiences of the Jocelyn Rankin Memorial Scholarship Winner

Kay Hogan Smith, MLS, MPH, was awarded SC/MLA’s Jocelyn Rankin Memorial Scholarship, which provided funds for her to attend a research-related workshop. Here, she describes the workshop and its impact. 

As the Southern Chapter MLA recipient of the 2016 Jocelyn Rankin Memorial Scholarship, I received support for travel costs for a trip to the University of Minnesota October 10th and 11th to attend the two-day training session for librarians participating as investigators in the Ithaka S+R research support services study focusing on public health. Ithaka S+R is a not-for-profit service focused on helping academia “navigate economic and technological change.” Part of this mission is focused on libraries and scholarly communication, and the organization has produced a number of research reports and issue briefs dealing with current challenges in the field. (See issue brief, "Finding the Public Domain: The Copyright Review Management System"). This current research study is the first to deal with the support needed by health researchers, particularly those in public health. I was joined at this training seminar by 12 other public health librarians from around the country, the only one from the Southeastern region. Danielle Cooper, a trained ethnographer and analyst for Ithaka, provided us with excellent guidance as our instructor for the seminar (and coordinator for the project.)

The training was an intensive, practical immersion in sampling, interviewing and analysis for qualitative research. Since this project will involve semi-structured interviews with targeted public health researchers at our institutions, a significant portion of the training focused on interviewing techniques with ample opportunity to practice in mock interviews with other attendees. (As usual in librarian continuing education classes, I met some amazing colleagues whom I hope to meet up with again soon!) In addition, Danielle provided us with the goals and techniques of our “purposive sampling” protocol as well as tips for constructing a “photographic inventory” of researchers’ work spaces and tools on the first day of the workshop.

The second day was largely devoted to the analysis we will be expected to conduct on the interview transcripts. We learned more about grounded theory methodology for qualitative research. As a social sciences based methodology, grounded theory does not begin with a hypothesis as most health sciences research does. Instead it progresses from the “ground” up, i.e., the theory arises out of the open ended (and open-minded) investigation and data gathering around a general question. In this case that question is: what will public health researchers identify as their research support needs and challenges as well as trends in the field? The type of coding and theme identification required for this analysis is painstaking and time-consuming but can be exciting as one sees the patterns and themes that begin to emerge from the data.

This project will result in a local report for the institution and a broader synthesis of the local research findings produced by Ithaka S+R and made publicly available on their web site by October 2017.

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