One part of this research is a longitudinal study over 2½ years of 60 full-time UK doctoral students from all subject disciplines (the Gen Y cohort), tracking their information-seeking behaviour and their changing attitudes to their research. As we enter year 3 of the study, 47 students remain active in participation in the study, with good representation of students in social science, arts and humanities and science, medicine and technology disciplines.
A range of creative and student-focussed qualitative research techniques and methodologies are used to find out how doctoral students do research, how and when they use libraries, information and research resources online and offline. The Gen Y cohort record their research and information-seeking activities on a regular basis in blogs and discussion forums, within and across subject discipline groups. Annual in-depth research conversations with our enlisted students, face-to-face or by phone or skype, help us better understand their information needs and challenges. The research facilitates students’ own learning and sharing about doing a doctorate and sheds light on attitudes to information access and research resources.
It’s important for the students to have a hand in shaping the ways in which they contribute evidence to this study, and to have choices between different ways of addressing the same research questions. We work with them to develop ways and means of capturing information about their research experiences without over-burdening them. Participants have told us that being involved in this study offers interesting and valuable opportunities to share experiences and exchange ideas with other doctoral students in the study.
While web-based methods allow us to overcome constraints of location and time in communicating with the trackers, we plan periodic get-togethers for the study group at the British Library in London, where they meet each other and have an opportunity to become familiar with the facilities and services of the world-renowned British Library.
A separate interactive moodle site hosts information sharing, discussions and blogs for the cohort of researchers.