As the 2013-2014 CRADLE Fellow, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the fields of data management and academic libraries. Since this is my second year in the UNC-CH SILS program, one of my requirements for graduating is to complete a Master’s paper. I decided early on in the Fall semester that I wanted to do something that would align with the needs and products of the CRADLE project. This led to discussions about potential research with Dr. Helen Tibbo and Thu-Mai Christian of the CRADLE team. We reviewed the future products of the project and the steps needed to complete these projects.
Initially we decided that focus groups would be the best approach to obtaining a deeper understanding of the needs of the researcher and information professional communities. Three groups would be gathered: one group of 9 researchers, one group of 9 information professionals, and one mixed group of researchers and information professionals. The focus groups would be conducted before or during the winter break (November – December). All of the groups would be recorded and individual interviews would be conducted afterwards if necessary.
Two protocols were developed for the focus groups, one for the researchers and one for the information professionals. The protocols were reviewed extensively by Dr. Paul Mihas of The Odum Institute, Thu-Mai Christian, and myself. After the first revision, the protocols were presented to the rest of the CRADLE UNC Team during an All-Hands Meeting. The Team then assisted in reviewing and editing the protocols to ensure that each question targeted the needs of the communities and the answers would assist in developing an appropriate data management curriculum.
During the Advisory Board Meeting in early November the protocols were reviewed and edited again. After the final reviews, the protocols were deemed sufficient by the CRADLE Team and the next steps were taken toward conducting the focus group sessions.
After the first draft of the protocols were completed, I started to work on the IRB application. I was told this could take some time, so I dedicated a weekend to sitting down and working through it. Overall the process was pretty painless and the application helped me to become more familiar with my own research design. Thu-Mai Christian was very helpful whenever I was stuck on a question due to a lack of familiarity with the IRB application.
Once I had completed the IRB, I submitted and waited for approval. Thankfully, I only had to make a minor change in one field before the IRB was approved and deemed exempt.
I had heard through various sources, such as students and professors, that getting participants for a study was not the easiest thing. Apparently, getting participants for a focus group is even harder.
I drafted a participation invitation with the help of Thu-Mai Christian and sent the first letter through the Odum Listserv in the middle of the Fall semester. I received one response from an interested party. The invitation was also sent to an academic librarian listserv at UNC and I received a few responses. I then used a list of potential participants provided by a contact at the Odum Institute. The list proved to be invaluable as I was able to get quite a few responses; however, due to the upcoming finals and winter break, scheduling the groups at a time that would work for everyone was not panning out. I tried rescheduling for later, but the Spring semester was starting and participants’ schedules were quite hectic.
Since the timeline for my Master’s paper was getting shorter and shorter, I went to Dr. Tibbo and Thu-Mai to discuss my options.
We decided that my best option would be to create an online survey that could be e-mailed to participants. I spent the winter break creating a list of 1,998 participants (including social science researchers and the information professionals who serve them). I also tweaked the focus group protocol to better suit the delivery of an online survey.
In the next post, I will detail the survey process and most importantly, the results and findings of my research.
To be continued in part 2