City Graduation 2017

After a slightly challenging summer but having passed my MA in Academic Practice in October 2016, I attended my City, University of London graduation ceremony at the Barbican in January 2017.

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to take UG and PG and vocational qualifications and I have always found them a chance to learn new languages,  travel and work in new countries ( I studied Modern Languages), study and develop and enhance my research skills.  My recent Masters course offered the chance to work on my own small scale research project and match literature searching to a piece of my own original research. While this was a challenge as I was also working full time, I really enjoyed having the freedom and  responsibility for my own research and producing and analysing outputs.   Answering the research question can be really difficult and requires  tenacity, hard work,  focus, clarity and preferably the skills of a detective.

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The graduation with the School of Arts and Social Sciences  was a  really great occasion and I found it very exciting.  There is a  real sense of tradition with the procession, the presentations and  the wearing of academic dress.  I enjoyed the ceremony, sharing the occasion with our students and colleagues and lecturers and hearing some of the students’ stories. I feel that education is an opportunity to grow and be changed and some graduates have found or are discovering  new jobs and new pathways in their lives.  It is exciting to see graduands waiting with anticipation to take the stage for the moment they become graduates.  It is also a chance to finally reflect on the course and experiences and skills gained and then look to the future and see how it can be put into practice.

Graduation is both an  end and saying goodbye but also  a new beginning.  Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” (John Dewey).   All in all, I totally recommend both studying and also the culmination of it by attending graduation and sharing the occasion with friends, family and colleagues before starting out on the next challenge.

 

Choosing a dissertation topic

I have recently completed an MA in Academic Practice degree run by the Learning Enhancement and Development Team at City, University London. The Academic Practice course is a mixture of theory, practice and reflection aimed at internal and external academic staff, professional staff, library staff and some research students who teach.

My particular highlight of the course was the Master’s level module Educational Research Project & Publication. This module provides the opportunity to conduct an original piece of educational research or a small scale research project and either produce a dissertation or conference paper based on this.

specs-on-bookChoosing an appropriate research question is really important and shapes the whole of your research. All that you do is focussed on exploring and trying to answer that question and it affects the research you conduct and the methodology you choose to employ.  I work as a Research Librarian at City, University of London. I work with doctoral students and one thing that I really like to do is to speak to the students individually or in small groups about their research. Some of these conversations have been around electronic resources and the use of digital tools and skills to support the research process. Talking to others and your supervisor is a good idea.  I found it a challenge to find a precise research question so I spoke to an academic colleague who had recently completed a PhD.  We then had a discussion and I decided to focus my research on exploring factors which may influence the digital literacy skills of research students.

It is useful to have an overview of literature searching, different approaches to research and research methods as these all help to address your research question. I found the book Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers (Bell, 2014) really useful so much so that I even wanted my own copy. The author is no relation but I found it helpful in terms of the literature review section, ethics, different research methods and writing up and evaluating results. Sometimes an overview of the process can be invaluable.

When choosing your research topic I would suggest choosing something that interests you and that you feel excited enough to research for a year,  a question that intrigues you and that you want to answer.  Also, do some preliminary literature searching to see if your topic is viable and if it has been researched in the same way before. This might also help with how your frame your topic.

Think of the future as well: if you would like to work in open access, consider researching open access, if you’re interested in public libraries maybe research digital inclusion or community partnerships etc. This is then something that you can talk about if you attend a job interview in a particular sector. However, sometimes you have to go with your heart or what you are genuinely passionate about researching as this will also drive your choices.

Read other peoples’ dissertations and theses on similar and different topics might also give you inspiration. Many universities have open access institutional repositories or digital archives such as City Research Online where you can read articles and publications by staff and researchers and also electronic theses. This is also a good way of refining your ideas on what you would like to research.

To summarise, I would take various factors into account and try and find something  a little challenging that interest you and that gives you sufficient motivation to answer questions and complete your research.

Bell, J (2014) Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers. 6th edn. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill.

CILIP Leadership Programme 2015-16

CnGG-EPWAAA2Fxi[1]I have just finished the CILIP Leadership Programme 2015-16. This was a pilot programme to develop leadership in the profession and was aimed at mid-career professionals or those with some experience.  I work as a Research Librarian in  City University London Library Services and was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to attend the programme by my Library Leadership team. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from the programme but had recently studied a Leadership and reflective pratice module at work so hoped to build on this and learn about different styles of leadership, meet others and connect with CILIP and work on a group project.

The programme ran from July 2015-2016 and was a mixture of face to face meetings and online webinars and self directed learning using the CILIP Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).  I was also part of a project group which was working on a continuing professional development (CPD) project with some of the CILIP member networks.

Some of the highlights for me were:

Attending workshops in different venues throughout the country eg. Liverpool, Newcastle and Brighton and attending the CILIP Conference.

Meeting new colleagues and friends from other sectors such as public libraries, museums and galleries and the private sector.

Exploring different leadership styles, personal communication styles and roles within teams. I have learned that there are different personalities and communication styles and am more aware of how people may communicate with each other when giving feedback for example and how this can affect outcomes and understanding. Also, in terms of leadership, how you present yourself and communicate your vision and ideas may influence your effectiveness and success.

Discovering the extent to which CILIP members have such a high level of  commitment to and interest in their continuing professional development. It is really encouraging for the future that colleagues wish to continue to continually learn and develop and learn new skills.

The opportunity to write some articles on leadership in CILIP Update and in SCONUL Focus  These gave the opportunity to reflect on different styles of leadership such as situational leadership and mentoring and coaching.

The opportunity to reflect on my experience of the CILIP Leadership Programme with other participants as part of the My Career strand of the CILIP 2016 Conference.

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Images: Albert Dock, Liverpool; Feasting with friends

Communication styles workshop; Newcastle Central Library

 

I attended the CILIP conference  2015  in Liverpool and found it very professional and really enjoyed the keynote speakers in particular and also found some of the parallel sessions relevant. I also attended part of the conference this year in Brighton 2016 (as mentioned above). I think the Careers strand of workshops and presentations at the conference this year was  really useful with its focus on careers, professional development and personal advocacy. There is also a new online version of the CILIP PKSB (Professional Skills and Knowledge Base) This should enhance the functionality of the tool and make it easier to use.

Working on a CILIP CPD project as part of a group at a distance was interesting and challenging.  As part of this our group designed a CPD survey which was distributed to members of CILIP member networks via email. There was a huge response to our survey (743 respondents)  indicating the large amount of interest and engagement that CILIP members have in CPD.  There are many opportunities for CPD such as online learning, webinars, mentoring/ coaching, workplace visits and experience sharing, teachmeets and networking evenings. The challenge lies perhaps in events at the right time (eg. daytime, evenings, lunchtime), in suitable geographic locations,  online events and making the technology work and having the resources and time to fund,  organise and coordinate everything.

I’m sure I have much to reflect on for the future, I’ve learned that leaders (like Pokemons) can emerge in unexpected places and it may be the case that they are practitioners and speak through their work, research and their professionalism and they may not necessarily be the most senior managers in an organisation but can still exercise power, have vision and influence and develop others. Also, considering how we communicate with others is important and perhaps making an extra effort to  I would like to  thank CILIP, the Leadership Programme Coordinator (Jo Alcock) who was very supportive and great to work with,  colleagues on the Programme and my Library Leadership Team at City for the opportunity.

Alternative access to Journal Citation Reports and Essential Science Indicators (City University London)

We have been experiencing technical issues with our access to Journal Citation Reports (JCR) and Essential Science Indicators (ESI), our E-Access team is currently working with Thomson Reuters to resolve this.

In the meantime the following links can be used to access the previous version/ interface of each resource:

If you have any questions please contact your Subject Librarian or email e-access@city.ac.uk.

Read for Research

Taking an overview of Read for Research at City University London Library

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  • A patron driven acquisition scheme offered by Library Services  based on the research interests of students and staff.
  • Started in November 2013 and has continued since.
  • So far we have purchased 1208 titles (books and e-books) through the scheme.
  • Very popular across disciplines in the University.
  • A reading list of titles is being compiled which indicates the breadth of research done at City.
  • A visual display of titles  can be found on our Researcher guide.
  • See our #readforresearch and @Citylibresearch on Twitter and see feedback from our research students on their choice of titles and on Read for Research. Feedback includes : “Highly recommend – have ordered loads of fantastic books. Get into it students!”
  • The furthest distance travelled by a Read for Research (Law) book is probably a title ordered from Australia.
  • City research students & staff can order titles by simply completing the Read for Research webform and use #readforresearch to discuss their choices.

Designing surveys for research

During a research project, it may be decided to conduct a survey if it is considered that it will add value to the attempt to answer the research question.  This should only really be done after completing the literature review part of the project to identify if a survey is appropriate as a research tool. The literature review should indicate some themes or areas to explore in the survey.  If the literature has not been fully analysed (this can of course take time) then it can be a challenge to develop an ideal survey.

There are also other factors involved, some of which are that:

“It requires discipline in the selection of questions, in question writing, in the design, piloting, distribution and return of the questionnaires” (Bell, 2014, p. 157).

As potential respondents are very often busy, it is useful to keep the survey as clear and concise  and brief as possible and give an indication early on how long it may take and how many questions it includes. The survey must add value in some way and must enable you to address all or part of your research question. It is a very good idea to pilot test the survey before it is launched to obtain feedback on clarity, length and any technical issues for example and make sure it is as clear as possible before considering sending it out.  It is worth giving thought to who the target audience is and the best way to reach them. If the response rate is low then it may prove difficult to draw conclusions from the data.

I have recently designed a survey for my MA research project and I used the Survey Monkey (enhanced version) for this. I found the software quite easy to use and if offered a good range of questions such as multiple choice, scale rating questions and free text boxes. A link to the survey was sent out and the software collected the results and performed some of the analysis overall, for individual questions and individual responses. I was also fortunate to be able to adapt  and repurpose another survey with kind permission from the original author. Also, it is sometimes necessary to obtain ethical approval for the study from the university and this must be done in good time before sending out any surveys.

What does take time of course is actually analysing all of the data and trying to find connections and key themes which address the research question. It is really for that reason that it needed to be well designed and fit for purpose in the first place.

Overall, I found the experience really useful in  enhancing my survey design skills and I am still currently analysing the data thematically to contribute to my project.

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Read for Research – City University London Library

Read for Research  offers the opportunity to research students and staff  at City University London conducting research to suggest  titles for purchase by City University Library Services  

See our Read for Research Twitter hashtag for some titles ordered so far and to see what students think of the scheme.

Read for Research has been very popular and so far over 900 new items have been added to the Library stock since the campaign started in November 2013. It has also been quoted as a good practice example in a new book called Practical tips for facilitating research / Moira Bent.

City research students and staff can recommend general research and specific books for Library purchase on the Read for Research webform.