Category: Research

And my new RSS reader is… Feedly

Google Reader is dead. Long live Google Reader. I’ve presented on RSS feeds before on this blog, but now I have a new feed aggregator. See also a presentation I held, in French, on blogging as a doctoral student (slides here).

After much investigation, I have settled on Feedly to manage my daily information feeds. I like the interface and the multi-platform support. I tried the Old Reader and NetVibes but the former was too slow when switching categories on my phone and the latter, I just could not get used to the interface.

Using apps for teaching & research

I recommend this really interesting article from Alexandre Enkerli on the topic of which apps on the iOS platform he uses for his teaching, researching and… well… day-to-day life.

Of particular value is the discussion of his “workflow” and how each app supports him.

Vintage Video Games at the Museum (in Québec City)

I saw this add in a special section of Le Devoir this weekend:

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Essentially, the Musée de la civilisation de Québec has issued a plea to get donation of antique video game consoles to build a heritage grade collection.

They are also announcing an expo on vintage games starting April 24th 2013:

Game Story
April 24, 2013–March30, 2014
Video games first appeared on the scene in the early 70s. Still a relatively new medium, they have evolved and improved continuously to become a major cultural industry today. The history of video games is also the history of graphic and industrial design as reflected in console styling, fan magazines, and packaging and advertising. The exhibition creates authentic period ambiances using a variety of visual supports including objects associated with the games themselves.

Adapted by Musée de la civilisation based on an exhibition by Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais in collaboration with Musée des Arts asiatiques Guimet and Association MO5.COM.

You have until March 2014 to get to Québec City.

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Tools for the digital scholar

A colleague passed on this nifty project – it aims to survey the digital authorship tools out there… Bamboo DiRT
From the Bamboo DiRT “about” page:

Bamboo DiRT is a tool, service, and collection registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. Developed by Project Bamboo, Bamboo DiRT is an evolution of Lisa Spiro’s DiRT wiki and makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.

And now, for something… British 1 (open access)

The Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings (aka the Finch group) of the Research Information Network just released a report recommending that open access to scholarly publishings was the best method to increase access :

The internet has brought much better access to research results for members of the academic community. But the full benefits of the digital and online revolutions have yet to be realised, especially for business, the professions, and the general public. Many people have expressed the ambition for a worldwide open access regime. The key policy questions are how to promote that shift in an ordered way which promotes innovation and maximises the benefits while minimising the risks.

The report recommends actions which can be taken in the UK which would help to promote much greater and faster access, while recognising that research and publications are international. It envisages that several different channels for communicating research results will remain important over the next few years, but recommends a clear policy direction in the UK towards support for open access publishing. This means that publishers receive their revenues from authors rather than readers, and so research articles become freely accessible to everyone immediately upon publication.

The Final report contains over 140 pages and an interesting bibliography.

See also this recent report from the Royal Society on Science as an Open Enterprise, which focuses heavily on data stewardship and sharing.

Tips on the research process for new academic librarians

On April 27 2012, Concordia University Libraries hosted its 10th annual Librarian’s Forum. I like to think of this venue as an opportunity for colleagues to expose their ongoing research projects to get feedback or pointers before the completion of their research cycle. At least, that is how I approach this event with regards to my participation.

The keynote address this year was given by Gwendolyn Ebbett, the Dean of the Library, University of Windsor. Amongst other topics, she presented the forthcoming Librarians’ Research Institute, hosted by her institution and sponsored by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). Broadly speaking, this three day event (June 11-14 2012) aims to build research capacity amongst academic librarians.

In light of these two very related events, as well as conversations with colleagues now entering the field of academic librarianship, I’ve given the issue of research some thought – incomplete and off the cuff – which I would still like to share with you.

In general, here is a simplification of the research process :
1. (Questions) Think about a problem in our field. To do this, you will have to read, think and exchange.

AKA – the literature review, participating in conferences, engaging with colleagues to identify partners. Try to work on a big issue that is bugging everyone. Think big, start small, scale fast. Don’t be afraid to change the world – you are asked to look for tension or something that is amiss

2. (Hypothesis) Make a bet about why the problem exists or try to fix it. To do this, you will have to structure, express, plan.

This is the most critical step – you have to get it right. You will also have to figure out the methodology of your project.

3. (Experiment) Measure some things. To do this, you will have to execute, document, review.

This is where the bulk of the activity occurs in your project

4. (Conclude) Rethink the problem. To do this, you will have to write, share and repeat step 1.

Project documentation is essential – without it, you cannot publish and have an impact in your field. You will also have to publish your results

Now, these generic steps provide some guidance about what needs to be done, but it makes a lot of sense to try to build a project plan articulating these points. It should fit on two pages maximum.

In the first page, you should be describe the project in a few paragraphs. This refers to point (1) above. Then, the main objectives or hypothesis should be spelled out in a few bullet points or paragraphs (see (2) above). Then, any partners or networks should be identified. All this should fit on a single page, understandable by a smart person that is not an expert in your domain.

For the second page, your project plan should address the main steps. For each step, you should determine a deadline or milestone (when the step will be completed – a date), the step’s objectives, the parameters or constraints (things to keep in mind) and the resources. Here are some generic phases to a project:

1. “Grain of sand” phase: this is the pre-conceptualization phase. You’re not sure what you want to do, still exploring without much of a goal. This phase should not last more than 2% of the overall project timeline
2. Hourglass: you are zoning in on the topic you want, you are preparing a draft project plan. This lasts about 3% of the total project resources (time/money).
3. Sandbox: You are building your research questions, working on your hypothesis and selecting your methodology. 10% of the total project resources (time/money).
4. Sand quarry: You are executing the project. 65% of the total project resources (time/money).
5. Beach: Document and write results. 20% of the total project resources (time/money).

This could happen over many years, and involve many collaborators and funding sources. Or, it could involve only you. It doesn’t matter – only the fact that you plan out your activities so you can keep an eye on the overall goal: the satisfactory completion of your research project.

You can also plan for research outputs throughout the project, for example, highlighting gaps in the literature during your lit review to feed into the hypothesis formulation or providing insight on how you have operationalized a particular methodological approach on a problem. This keeps feeding the publish-or-perish monster.

Now, I have explained this process – in French – on my other blog a few years ago. See: Étapes de la recherche, cadre conceptuel, hypothèse, cadre opératoire on CultureLibre.ca. I’ve fixed up a quick Google translate but it really does not do justice to my original French text – sorry if it sounds convoluted. I was trying to summarize the doctoral thesis writing process to a friend, but it applies to a general research protocol:

The research project (or thesis) begins with a theme and grows through the initial phases of the project, as specified Mace and Petry. The development phase consists of two steps: conceptualization (thinking about a problem to solve arising from a discrepancy between observed reality and an objective) and operationalization (the “realization” of research ). In fact, the problem is articulated through a theory or a “theoretical framework” that relates to a possible hypothesis and objectives that seek the solution (or the outcome of the research).

In the initial phases, it is essential to make (and respect!) choices in order to reach the end of our project. Indeed, we must (1) select a problem and articulate it with precision, (2) formulate the problem and most importantly, general and specific research questions, (3) define research objectives, (4) position the project in the current state of knowledge, (5) clarify the conceptual language (conceptual framework) and (6) clarify the ambitions and the limits of the project.

Moreover, “a thesis, it is not an essay.” An essay is an amalgam of theories, thoughts and opinions, proposed by an author to explore a topic in a manner of his own. An essay can be original (as a thesis for that matter), but the academic rigor is not necessarily at par (not be excluded that the rigor of the test, but there is more latitude). Often, an essay is tinged with a political choice or a moral stance on an issue. You should avoid this perspective in the thesis. Consistency and discipline are the foundation of the thesis. This is why there are many references or footnotes in a page thesis.

To present some examples of conceptual frameworks, Professor Rolland [referring to the prof in charge of a doctoral seminar I took in the Winter of 2010 at Université de Montréal Law Faculty] presents some entries the Encyclopedic Dictionary of theory and sociology of law, especially the concepts of “interpretation” by Arnaud and that of “Validity” by Ost / de Kerchove (p. 243 and following of the first volume of the collection). About validity, the authors offer the hypothesis that the validity has three aspects, the formal validity (which offers the concept of legality), the empirical validity (for effectiveness) and axiological validity (ie, legitimacy). It is often very relevant to represent the conceptual framework presented in our readings in graphic form (“topic / concept map”).

Then, it is essential to state an hypothesis and / or research goals. The hypothesis, which is a classical approach, is a “small” (hypo) thesis, that is established upfront. This is a tentative explanation, an anticipated response or predicting phenomena of reality resulting from our analytical framework, which is still plausible. It is proposed as an affirmative expression that employs the concepts of your conceptual framework. In the hypothetical-deductive context, the thesis is the sum of the hypothesis and evidence.

The research objectives are the formulation of our research intention, to describe or compare.

Moreover, the hypothesis can establish a relationship between two facts, between two concepts or between a fact and a concept that should be validated. The relationship between the two could be a causal one, an associative one (correlation, involvement, cause-effect), dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis). We must delve into our hypothesis (based on the conceptual framework) to establish the operational framework on which we will base our proof.

The concepts are abstractions of reality based on a precise language. They must include all essential attributes for object classes with common properties. It is by drawing up the conceptual framework that can articulate our hypothesis into variables. These variables are then analyzed and used by our operational framework (which contains, among other things, the analytical framework).

The operational framework becomes a deepening of the conceptual framework, in line with the variables to be studied.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

MACE Gordon and Francois Petry, A Guide to Developing a research project, 3rd ed., Quebec, PUL, 2000

Visually, what I describe in the long quote would look something like this:

Research Project = conceptualization + operationalization
Conceptualization (Theoretical framework):
– Problem statement (general & specific research questions)
– Conceptual Framework
– Hypothesis (or objectives)
Operationalization (Operational Framework)
– Variables (derived from hypothesis)
– Methodology
Experiment

Hope this helps 😉

‘Reinventing the Research University’ by James Duderstadt

This post from Diane Goldenberg-Hart on the Coalition for Networked Information’s (CNI) mailing list (CNI-ANNOUNCE: cni-announce-subscribe@cni.org) caught my eye It features James J. Duderstadt, who is (from the email):

is President Emeritus at the University of Michigan, he chaired the National Academies committee that published the key 2002 report Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology and the Future of the Research University, and he is a member of the Academies committee studying the future of the research university. In this talk, Duderstandt discusses the social and technological trends driving the restructuring of higher education, the future role of the research university, and the changing understandings of teaching and learning, scholarship, and engagement.

The theme of the talk is “Reinventing the Research University to Serve a Changing World” and was delivered at the opening plenary from CNI’s spring 2012 membership meeting:


The video is over an hour long, so here are some slides that caught my eye :
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The full video is also available on CNI’s two video channels: YouTube: http://goo.gl/sfycM or Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/41324942
Or via their channels: YouTube http://www.youtube.com/cnivideo or Vimeo http://vimeo.com/channels/cni