An honest attempt at conversation

Thanks again to Josh for another post!

With the first 6 weeks finished- I imagine many of you are similarly wondering how we can generate a bit more conversation and engagement with this blog. What is it’s purpose? Is this an advice column? Are we suppose to share our research (what research?) Although I often loathe group work- I find it much easier to sit across from colleagues and share thoughts and ideas than to scrap together valuable comments or blog posts. My apologies for being so inimical- I imagine we could generate some excellent conversation in a different setting! 

For those who have not stumbled across this story- or are not in Prof. Caidi’s Foundations class, our southern neighbours are “celebrating” open/public access to federally-funded research as of last Friday. According to the statement released by the White House, “the final policy reflects substantial inputs from scientists and scientific organizations, publishers, members of Congress, and other members of the public – over 65 thousand of whom recently signed a We the People petition asking for expanded public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research.” (

According to the new legislation access to taxpayer-funded research is now required within 12 months of publication, similar to NIH’s current policies. 

But to who’s advantage is the access of this information? Sure the “politically-active” and the information professionals are on board- but the general public? Really? 

As mentioned by a classmate, one disadvantage to public access of research is the so-called edge given to competitors and private institutions conducting similar/same research. And where is this information going to be accessible? From the internet? From the publishers? Archives? Government?

While I have only touched on this topic- I am wondering what you all think about this move. Is it indeed a “landmark”? How does it affect the researcher and/or publisher? Who is going to use this information?

– would love to hear your thoughts, and thanks for putting up with me 🙂

Second-Half posting begins …

Almost two weeks have elapsed since our last wall post, although Katherine wrote an excellent reply to Vanessa’s Valentine’s Day post on 25 February. So, to ensure the ‘consistency’ of our posting regime, I’m writing something now.

As a former General Editor, Assistant Editor, and author, I have some advice to share, advice which I hope has some tangential relation to Lukas or Knight: (1) expect to wait a *long* time for reviews to be returned; (2) before initiating the process of review you should secure from the author a seriously worded (though not legally binding) consent form; and (3) expect to ‘edit’ reviews before giving them to the author—believe me, some academics (especially of the ‘old school’) don’t believe in karma.

And now for a few points explicitly related to Lukas’ and Knight’s books … Lukas is right to praise Frank Luntz. Luntz’s work with focus groups offers a superb example of how to use focus groups effectively—focus groups allow pollsters to test campaign phrases, such as “climate change” (of Luntz’s coinage) instead of “global warming.” Best avoid adverbial lists, which Knight uses too liberally. In North America we prefer “First, Second, Third” to “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly.” Although mental mapping is indeed important in the course of claimsmaking, it’s often best achieved subtly, unless you’re in a rush to write a blog entry!

Best wishes,


SSHRC Proposal, etc.

I am still not completely certain that I have fully applied the salsa-dancing approach to my research process and proposal but one aspect of Luker that I do appreciate is her belief in the value of exploring life outside academia. Whatever salsa dancing is in your life – running, yoga, going to see films or simply spending time with your beloved black lab – I believe that having this substance in your life and finding a balance between what informs your personal and mental well-being and that which informs your rigorous study and graduate research is where valuable insight is best found. At least that holds true for my life. I have also found that most students in our degree often juggle many responsibilities. Usually they are members of student groups, have at least two (if not more) part-time jobs, commute from the nether regions of the city, volunteer at special libraries, are involved in independent and external research projects and sleep very little. Being in a “professional” program requires that students garner as much experience outside of academic life as possible in order to enter the workforce successfully.

On the topic of research for our first assignment, I have loved reading your posts and in doing so, have realized that I am not a crazy person for second and third and fourth guessing myself and my research interests. My initial question (as you may or may not remember) was related to the impact of mobile technologies on consumer health and patient education centres in hospitals. When I took an in-depth look at the guidelines for SSHRC, I realized that any research interests related to medicine, health, health policy, public health and/or behaviours related to these is not supported. This was a huge setback for me because I had also wanted to investigate the information behavior of dentistry students and/or the impact of library instruction on their information seeking as I work at the Faculty of Dentistry’s library at U of T. Because Dentistry is a health science, I did not want to chance my research proposal being rejected. Once again, I was influenced by a section of Luker, which is in the chapter on Sampling, Operationalization, and Generalization. Luker says “one of the tasks of salsa-dancing research is to elicit the deep meaning structures that people in a given situation hold, and how those meaning structures map across external reality.” (2011, p.110) This insight into meaning making was the impetus for my finalized research topic which has to do with data literacy initiatives in academic libraries and the meaning structures around them and how this will/can affect the digital economy. This is an area that I am quite interested in and I nervously await the comments and feedback.

I hope your SSHRC proposals went well!

–          Vanessa

Who am I?

As in: (1) Who is this stranger posting to Researchofile?; and (2) “What am I a scholar of?” (Luker, p. 64)

I’m very, VERY behind on posting, and it’s all because of Luker! Let me explain:

You see, I’m a bit of a slow reader, especially if what I’m reading is something that is essentially a loosely structured novel. Luker’s writing, for example, with all the anecdotes and salsa dancing metaphors, is very difficult for me. Structure, that’s what I like. I like rules and regulations, headings and sub-headings, bullet points, figures, tables, and pictures. In other words, I like Knight. (I also like Creswell, but more on that later.) But I hit a bit of a roadblock with Assignment 2 (something about my framework, not sure what, wasn’t making sense to me) and decided to go back to Luker and give her a more careful read. I had some questions, and perhaps Luker had the answers for me.

Page 64 is where I found what I needed. Luker said, “decide what you are; (…) what are you a scholar of.” You need to know this to develop a proper frame for your research question, she added, and “how you frame your question is something of a key importance” (p. 67). This resonated with me, so much so in fact that I decided to take a step back and regroup.

A few sources proved particularly helpful. Marcia Bates’ article titled “An Operational Definition of the Information Disciplines” (available online via Marcia Bates’ website at gave me a listing of all of the i-disciplines and some background on how this list was developed. Things are complicated in our field so I also read Brian Cantwell Smith’s critique of Bates’ “The Invisible Substrate of Information Science” ( next, just to get some additional context. The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences was terrific, of course. And finally, I must also mention Creswell’s “Research Design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed approaches” (2003), where he talks at length about the thinking involved in the process of designing research. How do you select a proper methodology for your research? What theoretical perspective is behind this methodology? What epistemology informs all of this? This was a good complement to Knight’s Ch. 1.

And so here I am now, very, VERY behind on my blog work. I must admit though, Luker really did make me think about what it is that I like about LIS and where I , so perhaps this was a good investment of my time after all. (And now, no additional side projects for me for the remaining of the semester!)

I still have a bit of writing to do, so off I go now – but talk SOON! J


Connecting the Dots

Hello to everyone out there in research land!

As I futzed about with my SSHRC application over the weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone was going through the same thing as I was at the moment.  I hit the alarming realization that my research interests didn’t necessarily align with my actual abilities and skills as well as I would like.  This was startling for a number of reasons, the first being that I was going to have to justify my ability to engage in this research within the assignment.  

As much as I would love to study the works and cultural impact of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas for the rest of my life, I actually don’t know a great deal about them in a scholarly context and I’ve never studied them from an academic perspective.  All in all, not a great money-maker.  

Never fear though, I wouldn’t be telling the world about this if I hadn’t figured out how to swing my skills and the assignment in the appropriate directions.  I thought back to my interests, including – but not limited to – self-perception, introversion/extroversion, cultural diaspora and sexuality.  And then I thought more about the field that I now intend to enter: the big, wide world of information.  Long story short: I’ve worked out my assignment and I’m hoping that it flies with the shadowy board of figures.

I couldn’t help but think back to Marcia Bates’ colloquium, where she talked about how Information is one of the few areas of study that can be applied across a vast multitude of disciplines.  I think we’re all actually really fortunate in that regard.  The opportunity to take any dot of information out there in the universe and draw a line back to ourselves is actually a huge advantage, and I’ve only just come to realize the magnitude of this power.

Yours in research,


More ideas

That seems to have got the ball rolling. Let’s all thank Katherine for her excellent reply to my post. Don’t let her reply slip your attention. I know everyone is busy, but please give blogging a chance. Once again, evaluation time is very near.

Here are a few more points, some of which pertain to the readings.

I’m a strong believer in established research formulas. Before I entered University of Toronto as an undergraduate I attended several tutorials offered by one of the undergraduate writing units. I remember one of the tutorials—I was there with a friend who eventually became a professor at University of Chicago. The then director of the unit introduced us to a system called the Cornell Note-Taking Method. The idea behind the Cornell method was that the student must be attentive while taking notes—that he or she must not slip into a daze or daydream while listening to a lecture / seminar. To improve comprehension and retention, the Cornell method encouraged students to extend the left margin of an A4 sheet of paper. He or she would then insert in the left margin questions pertaining to the material. At the foot of the page there would be a summary of the page’s main ideas. This site describes the method in greater detail:–take-study+worthy-lecture-notes.

Here are two methods of studying more effectively: (1) No matter how heavily you annotate your copy of a text, reserve space at the top of the page for a word that summarizes the page’s main ideas—early bibliographers / bibliophiles, like Revd Alexander Dyce and William Gladstone, used a similar technique with endpapers; (2) read in 25-minute blocks—neurological studies suggest that the human brain is optimized for short periods of attention.

I found those methods very effective in my youth. Now I write notes in small books, and I take notes with different colours of ink and highlighters: pencil = first reading; pen = second reading; highlighter (yellow) = important; highlighter (pink) = darn important, nota bene, memorize it, or at least know the concept.

And now onto my own research, and what I’ve taken from the readings …

What really amazes me about both books is the way that they attempt to reduce art to craft. Ever attend an art class only to be told how to paint in a predictable way? I have. As I mechanically learned how to produce art I thought about all the craft passed off as art at garage sales, flea markets, and even (occasionally) at one of Yorkville’s more swanky galleries. It seems to me as if the difference between good art and good research isn’t (or shouldn’t be) that great. Good research isn’t formulaic. Just as Van Gough and Picasso became perceived as geniuses by challenging social norms, the good researcher must defy his or her predecessors. Thirty years ago positivism became an institutionally accepted standard. Deconstruction and literary theory emerged as scepticism to reposition history in favour of the marginalized other. The current trends of genre, thematic, and periodization criticism—trends which underlie Knight’s models (p. 11)—became standard. And here’s how I’ve been trying to challenge these norms in my writings and research.

(1) Scepticism (Deconstruction, etc) emerged as an academic standard because it facilitated a culture of over-production in the humanities. It’s much easier to develop an extensive list of publications if the so-called scholar need only summarize the ideas of Derrida, Foucault, etc, for the first half of his or her article. Every article I write begins with an important document which repositions the meaning of the text historically. The act of discovery seems to be a methodologically appropriate technique for entering into discourse because we live in an age of unparallelled access to information through search engines and digital resources.

(2) Factuality. The main adherents to the sceptical-literary critical model try to deny the existence of a quasi-infinite body of fascinating, potentially theory-busting facts; and, thus, they direct their efforts to connecting the dots between disciplines or redefining a concept which has been “defined too narrowly or too broadly, and / or … measured inappropriately” (Knight 11). (Note here that this method often allows them simply to reframe other scholars’ research, thus freeing them to devote their time to developing their skills as rhetoricians and making them more valuable commodities as well-trained language instructors.) Some of my work, which may superficially appear as bibliography or codicology, is, in fact, intended to bust a large, gaping hole in humanities dogma—the lie that we’ve found everything.

(3) Time. In an age of near-instant access to information, words are cheap. What’s the difference between an academic and a journalist? How about between a journalist and a blogger? Or between a popular blogger and a first-time blogger? Value is often a product of time and dedication. Why, as we move towards an age of e-print, should we locate value in fast (and inherently superficial) analysis? Certainly we’re moving away from a consumer culture of low-cost, low-quality goods. Why shouldn’t we as scholars think about what makes for good research?

I hope this all makes sense.