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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2018

14 - Information science research: what and how?


Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.

Albert Szent-Györgi, Hungarian biochemist

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.

J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit)

This is not a field that produces Wunderkinder, bright young things who make their mark at a precocious age. In fact, some of our sample members have kept their best wine until last. Creativity in academic information science is clearly not the preserve of callow youth …

Blaise Cronin and Lokman Meho (2007, 1954)

Avoiding useless results requires openness and transparency about how the data were gathered and a reasonable judgement that does not exaggerate what these data could possibly mean.

Elke Greifeneder and Michael Seadle (2010, 7)


In this chapter we will consider the nature and purpose of information research, and the methods used to carry it out. We will give an overview with examples, without trying to go into the detail of any particular aspects.

There are a number of good textbooks covering information research methods. These all cover many of the topics in this chapter in much more detail than we give here. We will mention them now, and refer to them again only when they offer some particularly useful material. They should, however, be considered as valuable references for all of this chapter, offering a fuller treatment to material which we treat briefly here.

Two good texts giving a detailed coverage of the area are Alison Pickard's Research methods in information (2007), and Briony Oates’ Researching information systems and computing (2006). Lawal (2009) gives a guide aimed specifically at library and information practitioners and students considering carrying out research, while Moore (2006) focuses on planning and managing information research. Texts on research methods generally may also be valuable, for example Denscombe's (2010) guide to social research methods. So also may be some texts on particular aspects of the information sciences; Donald Case's books (2007; 2012) on information and use, for example, give a very good overview of the research processes and methods used in this area.

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