Earlier this week I attended the second in the series of three LIS DREaM (Developing Research Excellence and Methods) workshops for LIS researchers and practitioners. I blogged previously about the first workshop in Edinburgh last year, where I gave a brief overview of our m-library community support project. I’m not going to give an overview of the whole event as that has been done very well by others – I just wanted to share my highlights and the parts I might be able to put into practice.
Each of the workshops follow a similar structure, including sessions on a broad research approach, a specific quantitative research technique, a specific qualitative research technique, and a research ‘practicality’. This workshop included:
- User involvement in research
- Techniques from history
- Information policy
I have to be totally honest and say I wasn’t looking forward to this workshop as much as the last – they’re aspects of research that aren’t as directly applicable or interesting to me, though I appreciate that there are others in the group who for whom this workshop was more relevant than the last. The two sessions that I was looking forward to were the user involvement in research and the webometrics.
User involvement in research
The presentation on user involvement in research I’m afraid didn’t have any supporting materials so I can’t share the presentation though there is a video and overview on the LIS DREaM website. It was interesting to be a participant to a traditional style lecture of someone just talking with no materials to support it. I have to admit I found it more difficult as it is a different way of learning. I’m definitely more of a visual learner and like to read things to learn (particularly short bullet points) so presentations often suit me well. I’m far less of an auditory learner so although I do listen to presenters, it’s usually to back up what I’m getting from the images and text of their presentation. It made me realise how difficult it could be for other types of learners in a presentation setting though! Anyway, back to the content of the session.
I did take from the presentation was how important it is for certain projects to involve users throughout all stages of research. I actually think this is something we’re pretty good at in libraries, though there are definitely times where I know projects have minimal user involvement until it’s probably too late really. Peter also discussed different mixes of researcher-user involvement which was interesting. Users might be involved in commissioning research, or they may be heavily involved throughout in designing and contributing to the project. We’re involving users in our m-library project, though more as a regular check to make sure we are delivering something of value to the community (they’re not involved in the project team). I can see that involving users would be very useful for some library projects, particularly delivering new services, though as Michael points out, involving users isn’t likely to be easy:
This whole getting users involved in research idea seems interesting. And tricky. #lis_dream3—
Michael Stead (@MichaelStead) January 30, 2012
Introduction to webometrics
The other session I was interested in was Mike Thelwall‘s presentation on webometrics (metrics available from the web, particularly the social web, rather than web usage metrics like hits/visits). Mike is the webometrics guru, so it was good to hear him speak. I really liked his approach – he introduced the theory to us first, and then showed us some cool examples from his research to explain it. I’ve realised through these workshops that it really helps to cement an idea in my mind if I can see a practical example, and that might explain why I often find myself asking questions about something that is new to me until I can see a practical application for it and then it will stick.
Mike discussed some research he has done on analysing networks based on YouTube comments (where male and female commenters are identified and positive and negative comments, as well as the strength of links based on number of replies). Another really interesting piece of research he discussed was using Twitter to gauge public reaction to a number of popular events. They used sentiment analysis to analyse the content of tweets around periods of large scale events such as earthquakes and the Oscars. Great idea – and lots of potential applications of analysing the sentiment of tweets at certain periods of time or in certain locations. You can see Mike’s full presentation below:
Unconference half hour
I also really enjoyed the unconference half hour where attendees get to share their research or their research interests. This is a really good way of helping us get to know each other and make useful connections. This has actually already been of use – the following day at a different event I sat next to someone doing research in a very similar area to someone from the LIS DREaM group so I passed on their details.