What to Expect from your Research Methods Course

iStudent Blog

I put off taking LIBR 285 Research Methods until my second to last semester in the MLIS program. I put it off because I was intimidated. I had read the description of the class, I knew I had to take it at some point, but I kept delaying the inevitable.

By now you have most likely looked at the required courses and perhaps mentally planned when you will take each one. As 200, 202, and 204 are often pre-requisites for electives, most new students take these courses right away. This opens up your remaining semesters to delve into other topics and classes. But LIBR 285 will be there, lurking in the shadows as a reminder that you haven’t really taken all of your required classes.

Don’t let the class description worry you and don’t feel like you need to put off taking 285 until the last possible moment. While I did wait, there was truly no need for me, and you, to feel intimidated.

Research Methods has rotating topics to choose from depending upon the semester, which gives you plenty of options. Topics include evaluating programs and services, reference evaluation, information literacy assessment, historical research, and action research. If you are following a specific career pathway or are interested in a certain sub-field of information science, you may want to consider taking one of these more focused sections of 285. However there are more general options as well which might be especially helpful if you decide to take the course during one of your first few semesters and you don’t yet have a specific career focus in mind. (Note: You must have taken and passed 200, 202, and 204 before taking 285.)

I took the section on evaluating programs and services, a choice I made blindly but that turned out to be excellent. In order to determine whether the programs and services information professionals provide are working well and effectively they must be studied and evaluated. I learned how to conduct research and how to write a research paper correctly. My professor, Dr. Stenstrom, stressed that the skills we were learning and the projects we were writing were directly applicable to our future jobs. The final assignment, a research proposal, allowed me to step into the shoes of a working information professional trying to gain approval to evaluate a program or service.

In my 285 section, most students lamented that they hadn’t taken the class earlier. In fact we came to a consensus that we wished we could have taken the class in high school or even during our undergraduate career. That’s how helpful LIBR 285 turned out to be.

I like to think of Research Methods as the science portion of the library and information science degree. Just as scientists write reports on their data and findings after conducting a study, information professionals should also be able to perform research and share their results. Learning the correct way to conduct research and then write about it in an appropriate and professional manner is the focus of LIBR 285.

Do expect a rigorous pace. There is a lot of work involved in the research process, a lot of reading, writing, synthesizing, and editing. I wouldn’t recommend taking 285 during a busy semester or tacking it onto an already full load. But don’t keep it hidden away, either, because eventually you will have to add it to your schedule.

I will be happy to try and answer any questions you have about LIBR 285. If you aren’t sure which section to take I would also recommend checking out the different course syllabi or asking your advisor who may be able to shed some additional light on the different options.

Additional pages to peruse:

SLIS Student Research Journal

Students Working as Research Assistants

Research News at SLIS

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