Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Identifying Topics for Library and Information Science Research and Publication

Students and practitioners of library and information science often look for research topics about which they can write a paper and/or publish. When in that situation, identifying a topic is not as easy as one might think.

When I was a graduate student in library school, I remember wrestling back and fourth with different topics, trying to choose one for writing a required research paper. I probably drove my advisor and others to distraction trying to find a topic that I thought was great.

In frustration and out of hope, I wrote to Professor F. Wilfrid Lancaster who was at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science. At the time, I was in a class about information storage and retrieval at the University of Minnesota that used one of his books. Today, WorldCat shows 112 books by Professor Lancaster.

In my letter, I asked for advice about a research topic. He answered my letter with several suggestions. His kindness made a lasting impression on me. My guess is that he has received hundreds of similar letters over the years of his distinguished career as a library educator.

I often receive e-mails and letters from students, practicing librarians, or others who have read one of my articles, used one the books I have written, or who have heard a talk that I have given, or who have otherwise learned about one of the creative, innovative projects that have come out of the Ball State University Libraries. Sometimes the person tells me what I missed or left out, or comments why s/he agrees or disagrees, or the person provides additional examples that illustrate a point or concept. Very often, a person writes to ask for suggestions or ideas for beginning or expanding a research project.

To help persons who are looking for topics to research and write about, I have created a listing. It is neither exhaustive nor complete; yet, I hope it is useful. Check it out at
www.bsu.edu/libraries/ahafner/awh-th-researchtopics.htm and feel free to share your comments with me, AHafner@bsu.edu.


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