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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 2F - Paper 1

Does research-based practice work in supporting students?

Session Slides

Ms Diane Bell - Library Services, City, University of London

This paper examines how theoretical skills frameworks and research-based findings can be used to inform professional practice in supporting students. It discusses how to apply some original research I have conducted to explore digital social media tools used by doctoral students to support their research process and their attitudes towards these.

This paper discusses whether frameworks (eg. Jisc ones) and original research findings may be applied to supporting students with their digital skills. As a case study, I will explore how digital social media tools used by doctoral students may be considered useful or disruptive and how this can challenge and change my professional practice as a Research Librarian supporting students (Pickton, 2013).

I have recently completed an MA in Academic Practice researching the digital tools and skills employed by students.  I conducted mixed methods research including a literature review, an online survey of 27 doctoral students at City and qualitative interviews with 8 of those students. My research was underpinned by aspects of the Jisc Researcher capability profile (2015) including online communication skills.

Social media tools were considered both enabling and disruptive in the literature and the research. Lupton  (2014) highlighted the main perceived advantages  were connecting with academics, researchers and networking. 50% of the survey respondents desired training on creating an online research profile.  Half of the students interviewed found social media tools (eg. Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs) very useful for current awareness, conferences and obtaining feedback. The other half of students interviewed avoided social media, found it disruptive and distracting and had concerns around quality, credibility and a perceived lack of professionalism (Acord and Harley, 2013).

Since conducting the research, I have created a new Research Impact library guide which includes a section on researcher impact, Altmetrics  and the use of academic networking tools and offered some digital skills workshops. Feedback on the impact of these will be analysed.  I have also shared outcomes with colleagues and the wider library profession at a recent national conference. Although focussed on doctoral students, I believe aspects of frameworks and research outcomes can facilitate a richer understanding of student learning and research needs.


Acord, S.K. & Harley, D.  (2013) ‘Credit, time, and personality: the human challenges to sharing scholarly work using Web 2.0’, New Media & Society, 15(3), pp. 379-397. Available at: http://0-nms.sagepub.com.wam.city.ac.uk/content/15/3/379 (Accessed: 25/04/2016).

City, University of London Library Services (2016) Research Impact. Available at: http://libguides.city.ac.uk/researchimpact (Accessed: 21/02/2016).

Jisc (2015)  Building digital capability. Example researcher profile. Available at: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6238/1/Digital_capabilities_researcher_profile.pdf (Accessed: 21/04/2016

Lupton, D.  (2014) ‘Feeling better connected’: academics’ use of social media. Canberra: News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra.

Pickton, M. (2013) ‘Supporting research by becoming a researcher: how librarians can use their own research experience to benefit library users’. ALISS Quarterly  9(1), pp. 10-15. Available at: http://nectar.northampton.ac.uk/5614/ (Accessed: 21/04/2016).