ellie <3 libraries

sooooo much!

TLA 2011: Understanding User Behavior with Ethnographic Research Methods April 14, 2011

Filed under: Conferences,TLA 2011 — ellie @ 4:49 pm

by Andrew Asher

(didn’t see slides online, but he has a toolkit available)

The person doing the introduction said she was impressed by the Rochester presentation last year and the woman saying there was a 5% budget cut across the college, but not the library because they were so impressed with what they were doing.

Presenter – Andrew Asher – Lead Research Anthropologist for the ERIAL Project.

What do students really do when they are assigned a research project for class?

Mixed method approach with 9 data collection techniques. Largest ethnnographic study in a library to date. Library anthropology is a young field – 2004 at Rochester was first.

Ethnography is the art and science of describing a group, culture, or social process.

Slide with cycle/visual representation of ethnographic process. They developed a toolkit on their website.

Discussion of specific methods.

Elicitation methods – mapping diary. Gave students campus and library map. Had them mark where they went and put times and notes on back. Noticed on commuter campuses students spent hours traveling. Can target them with podcasts. On campuses where students live on campus, used library a ton, and not just for research related purposes, also to use the vending machine, printing, hanging out, etc.

Photo survey. Pictures are used as a prompt to get students to talk about their daily process.

Cognitive maps. Had them switch pens every 2 minutes, to track when they drew things. Students often couldn’t render the library space accurately. Told them some things about how they might redesign the space. The things that were absent were often as telling as the things present. Almost no students drew in the librarians (this was a library that doesn’t staff the ref desk). Did usually identify the places they could get help (the desks). Computer areas and group study spaces were the most identified. Good way to recruit students for other studies.

Retrospective research method – drawing out the steps from when they got an assignment til the end.

Interviews are the bread and butter of qualitative research.

Showed a video clip.

Highlights issues with evaluating resources. The go to place is Google. Had a hard time understanding what to do with information they found and how to interpret it.

JStor was getting the most use.  Why was it so popular? What was it doing that was working for students? And how can we use that in instruction? It searches full text and covers many topics.

Observational interviews. Research process interviews.

Example of a student struggling to find a video – minor gap in her knowledge, inadequate help at 3 different service points, and failure of signage.

Service Implications:

  • simple: additional directional signage, adding maps into catalog.
  • more complex: common basic service requirements for all service points, increased training for student employees

Audience question on IRBs. Presenter offered to share verbiage that had worked for him. Much depends on whether your IRB is familiar with this type of research.

Do you think your student persisted just because she was on camera? A: Not as much as you’d think. Students would give up very easily. One link wouldn’t work and they would move on. After the first few minutes, students pretty typically fall into patterns he’s pretty sure they’d follow if he wasn’t there.

Some self selection bias – people who are willing to spend 45 minutes with a researcher may or may not be different from the general public.

I asked if students asked researcher questions as they struggled or got angry at being watched fail.

Some did, and you just have to say, “Do it how you’d do it if I weren’t here.”

Mostly students were confident and didn’t ask. Only one got really angry. In some cases after the interview, we’d explain how things worked.

Question about using students to videotape. Privacy issues. Also, steep learning curve for how to do this type of questioning. Needs a lot of practice.

The fact that students call it a search engine instead of a database tells you about how they perceive information to be organized.

Second section of talk: How to organize this type of research.

Timing – it will take longer than you think. Good rule of thumb, however long you think it will take – double it.

Need to think through scope and number of activities. Plan time for the time it takes to schedule interviews and data analysis meetings.

Try to clear out your schedule for intensive data collection.

Presented a sample timeline for a small (20-30 interview) study.

Not very expensive to do these studies.

Use screen capture software (e.g. camtasia) rather than video cameras for computer recording.

Check equipment for interoperability and proprietary formats.

Involve people with varying backgrounds, especially useful to interpret data. (e.g. IT, faculty).

Try to keep team to manageable size (6-7 people)

Defining Research Questions

What questions do you want answered? What is  your hypothesis? What could you do if you had this information? What services can you implement?

Borrow methods from other studies, no need to reinvent the wheel. But also feel free to use your own methods if necessary.

$10-$15 is the range for paying to get students to participate.

Encourages us to not just view IRB as a hurdle. Helps you focus purpose, method, risks and use of data.

Much harder to work with people under 18. Ask age up front!

Transcription is more difficult and tedious than people think. Hiring a professional or experienced one is best.

Coding. He uses a modified version of grounded theory.

Analysis meetings. Spent a lot of time co-viewing videos and pointing out what they thought was interesting. Brainstorming and suggesting new hypotheses.

Mental Mapping.

Master list of proposed service changes. Generated lists over the course of the project (approx. 6 months)

Ranked the changes for importance and feasibility with a simple 1-3 scale.

Links to erialproject.org – includes more information about results. Feel free to email him. They have a book coming out, Summer 2011 – College Libraries and Student Culture.

twitter @aasher, #AnthroLib


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