Research Methods Course Focusing on Technology


Published: December 4, 2019 by Jason Kaltenbacher

Beginning this current (Fall) 2019 semester, I started teaching a technology management special topics section of INFO 285: Applied Research Methods. This course is designed to support students who are interested in developing a comprehensive research proposal that relates to a technology interest/issue. Like the other research methods courses, students learn the fundamentals of social research design and how to produce a viable and independent research proposal.

Why is technology management important for MLIS students? Isn’t this topic more aligned with business and IT? MLIS students and graduates find themselves in a wide variety of workplace settings, all of which will use information as an essential resource to fulfill their responsibilities. Information should be treated as an asset rather than just a convenience, and when we depend on technology resources for our productivity it’s essential that the information hosted and exchanged by these systems and that the tools that we utilize be managed effectively so that our objectives can be efficiently completed.

This class encompasses a wide range of concepts fundamental to research methods, including research design, topic development, measurement, sampling and surveying, qualitative and quantitative research and analysis, and the importance of ethics. Whenever possible, I link discussions to technology management themes so that students can use the discussions to help build their understanding of the technology topics that interest them, and then use the discussion to explore those ideas and gain feedback from the class. For their research proposal, students begin by working with me to build a topic proposal that incorporates a technology management-related matter. Students then develop a literature review that provides a research foundation for their topic interest, and a final proposal that incorporates the research methodology that they learned throughout the semester.

This semester, students developed research proposals on a wide-range of technology topics and issues, each of which factored-in decision-making to add a management perspective. Research proposals were developed asking questions aligned with the following subjects:

  • Accessibility resources and assistive technology;
  • Big data analysis;
  • Collections management;
  • Community technology training and research services (including youth and adult services, digital literacy and support to underserved communities);
  • Electronic health records and systems;
  • Ethical coding;
  • Library e-services (including the use of eBooks apps/mobile services, databases and journals, digitized resources, virtual assistants, systems security and patron privacy);
  • Learning Management Systems;
  • Library laptop lending programs;
  • Management of digital assets (including digital collections, social media and intellectual property estate issues);
  • Social media for outreach and fundraising; and
  • Technology equipment (including circulation software, RFID, self-checkout, book handling, and 3D printing)

The opportunities to use technology resources impact both present and future activities for librarians and information professionals, and we can influence the decision-making necessary for using, managing, selecting, and implementing valuable technologies designed to achieve our objectives based on our understanding of technology management priorities and considerations. We work in this class to develop a full research proposal that incorporates a technology-oriented management and leadership perspective, helping us gain familiarity with the business oversight considerations that may have influence on our topic and research question, adding another dimension to an important technology topic.


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