Research is an inquiry process that has clearly defined parameters and has as its aim the discovery or creation of knowledge, or theory building; testing, confirmation, revision, refutation of knowledge and theory; and/or investigation of problem for local decision making (Hernon, 1991). Leedy and Ormrod (2001) put it as "the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information (data) in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon about which we are concerned or interested".
Research provides theoretical foundations for any discipline and helps in its development. Unfortunately, research in librarianship is still in its embryonic stage and lack a body of knowledge (evidence based). Keeping this in view, Haddow (1997) stressed that if librarians fail to build a body of knowledge, it will be difficult to develop this profession. The status of librarianship's intellectual base, the degree of scholarship, must be regarded with some suspicion. Librarians should actively seek to address these criticisms by adding their research to the growing body of knowledge. Similarly, Busha and Harter (1980) have pointed out that if librarianship is to merit the in demand designation "science," a significant number of scholars and research workers must regularly apply scientific method to analyze relationships among the problems which librarians are obligated to explore and which they are qualified to solve. Moreover, the study of library science can attain recognition as a true science only when a general body of theory is developed.
Research Methods Used in Librarianship
Koufogiannakis and Crumley (2006) have reviewed the current trends of research in librarianship and found that there are several areas which contain more research than others. Consistently, topics in information storage/access/retrieval have greater amounts of research being published, as do collectionsrelated issues, and service activities. On the other hand, the areas of information seeking, LIS analysis, LIS education, LIS theory, history, methodology, the profession, publishing and scientific and professional communication all have less research being published. There are huge gaps in our evidence base in these latter areas and they all require further exploration to move our profession forward. Busha and Harter (1980) and Powell and Connaway (2004) have listed many research methods which are currently used in librarianship. For example:
It is a research method, in which the researcher attempts to maintain control over all factors that may affect the result of an experiment. In doing this, the researcher attempts to determine or predict what may occur (Key, 2002). It is a collection of research designs which use manipulation and controlled testing to understand causal processes. Generally one or more variables are manipulated to determine their effect on a dependent variable (Experiment-Resources.com, 2009).
Survey research is one of the most important areas of measurement in applied social research. The broad area of survey research encompasses any measurement procedures that involve asking questions of respondents. Surveys can be divided into two broad categories: the questionnaire and the interview. Questionnaires are usually paper-and-pencil instruments that the respondent completes. Interviews are completed by the interviewer based on what the respondent says (Trochim, 2006b).
Sometimes we gain the best knowledge by looking into the past rather than into the future. Historical research attempts to do just that. Through a detailed analysis of historical data, we can determine, perhaps to a lesser extent, cause and effect relationships. Historical research can also mean gathering data from situations that have already occurred and performing statistical analysis on this data just as we would in a traditional experiment. The one key difference concerns the manipulation of data. Since historical research relies on data from the past, there is no way to manipulate it. Therefore, historical research can often lead to present day experiments that attempt to further explore what has occurred in the past (AllPsych & Heffner Media Group, 2003).
Operations research (OR) is the application of scientific method to management operations in an effort to aid managerial decision-making. Techniques of operations research are concerned with the activities of organizations, or systems, and are designed to provide management with a quantitative basis for decision making (Busha & Harter, 1980).
Additional Research Methods in Librarianship
Observation and Description: Gorman and Clayton (2005) define observation studies as those that "involve the systematic recording of observable phenomena or behavior in a natural setting" (p. 40). It is a branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures and has a long history. It permits researchers to study people in their native environment in order to understand "things" from their perspective. Until recently, few library and information science studies have included this method; however, observation is gaining favor as LIS researchers seek to understand better the role of information in people's everyday lives (Free Library, 2009).
The Case Study Method: Case study research excels at bringing us to an understanding of a complex issue or object and can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research. Case studies emphasize detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their relationships. Researchers have used the case study research method for many years across a variety of disciplines. Social scientists, in particular, have made wide use of this qualitative research method to examine contemporary real-life situations and provide the basis for the application of ideas and extension of methods (Yin, 1984).
Library User Studies: According to King (2005), information needs and expectations are continuously changing in the rapidly changing information scenario. Libraries need to re-orient their collections, services, and facilities to keep pace with these advancements. User feedback is considered as a more reliable factor in measuring the utility and effectiveness of any library. By making user surveys a regular part of the library's functions, librarians can provide a comparative 'snapshot' of usage in various temporal contexts.
Evaluation Research: Evaluation is a methodological area that is closely related to, but distinguishable from more traditional social research. Evaluation utilizes many of the same methodologies used in traditional social research, but because evaluation takes place within a political and organizational context, it requires group skills, management ability, political dexterity, sensitivity to multiple stakeholders and other skills that social research in general does not rely on as much (Trochim, 2006a). According to Busha and Harter (1980), studies conducted to obtain objective and systematic evidence of the success or failure of library project and programs are often categorized as evaluation research. When a program is evaluated, its relative effectiveness in terms of standards, goals, and objectives is determined and described.
Library Surveys: Research...