Following the ‘Google Generation’ report published in 2008, the British Library and JISC have commissioned a further three year study into the information seeking and research behaviour of doctoral students born between 1982 and 1994 – young people commonly dubbed ‘Generation Y’. The study will establish a benchmark for research behaviour against which subsequent generations of scholars can be measured. It will ultimately provide guidance to the community of libraries and information specialists on how best to meet the research needs of Generation Y scholars and their immediate successors.
At the heart of ‘Researchers of Tomorrow’ is a longitudinal study of a cohort of 60 full-time UK doctoral students from across all subject disciplines. This tracking study applies a range of web-based and face-to-face qualitative research techniques to engage with the students in order to monitor and assess the evolution of their attitudes and behaviour over three years. It investigates their overall research conduct and habits in digital (online) and physical environments and tracks their usage of library and research resources both online and off.
To provide a wider context for this cohort study, a large scale quantitative survey is undertaken annually, examining the research and information behaviour of a representative sample of all doctoral students studying in the UK, whether UK citizens or international students. The research team are collaborating with higher education institutions to disseminate the survey to their doctoral students.
These two inter-related activities will gather evidence about researcher behaviour over a three year period in order to:
• Map emerging research trends across Social Science, Arts & Humanities, Science, Technology and Medicine;
• Investigate how doctoral scholars currently in higher education in the UK, particularly those from Generation Y, seek information both on and offline;
• Measure the use of digital resources and physical resources (including research spaces) during the period of the study;
• Understand how Generation Y students search for and use digital content for research, and how they use emergent technologies to do so;
• Compare the attitudes and behaviour of the Generation Y scholars with those of the larger national body of UK-based doctoral students.
The conclusions and recommendations drawn from this research will aid the British Library and the JISC in determining how best they can meet the current and future research needs of academic researchers and the potential impact of changing research behaviour on academic institutions, as well as providing valuable information for the Higher Education sector more widely.