Sunday, 7 December 2008

Lessons learned!

Now the dissertation is finally over, I feel it's time to look back and asssess what I've learned.

One thing I wish I'd known at the start is how difficult it is to keep track of the concepts and statements made in all the different pieces of literature.

If I do this kind of work again, I'll keep a more detailed database of all the articles and books I read, together with some keywords, and maybe a brief page of notes on each one, or some sort of index that I update as the literature review progresses, of themes and positions taken by authors.

Thankfully I do have a pretty good memory for this kind of thing, and since the topic was of interest to me I kept a lot of ideas in my head - or I used CTRL-F to jump around within my hefty Word document which included all kinds of rough ideas and notes right up to the second-from-final draft!

When I was going through my voluminous files of printouts, I realised there were lots more references I could have, and would have liked to include, had I been able to keep track of it all! I really need to improve my note-taking and make it more methodical; also, I think it's a simple question of confidence. I have never produced such a lot of words before! All my write-ups have been more technical in the past, including many more equations, diagrams etc. This was my first stab at a humanities-oriented research paper rather than a lab report or project write-up.

Another interesting question is how much to "publish" - I've written up a shorter version of my dissertation (about 10% of the length!!!) for publication. I can't share it here because it hasn't been published yet. However, I think that the habit of publishing something before you actually finish, which is common in PhD research, could be usefully brought into Masters level work.

Trying to express ideas and link them into the academic discourse is hard; the more research you do, the more connections there are and the more you are trying to summarise. Hence, to try and write up a summary, from start to finish, at a half-way point might really help (I know I found the length of the dissertation pretty unwieldy when it came to editing it). I suppose this blog has helped me do that to some extent.

Thursday, 4 December 2008


Currently plugging away at a few short versions of the dissertation for publication in library and information journals, of the print and online varieties, and of the more or less "academic" sort.

As keen as I am to get my results and conclusions out there, it's jolly hard work reiterating all the things I've been thinking about and struggling to get into managable form for the last 6 months or so.

Hopefully there should be some links I could put here once the things go to press (I'm optimistic!) and that would be a nice way to wrap up the blog.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Guess what?

It's finished!

A complete PDF version will be up at some point for anyone who's interested.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

In the thick of the final edit

I am now in the thick of the final edit. This is a good place to be, because it means I will soon (27th November!) be ready to submit the dissertation, and this blog will have reached its goal!

See you then. I will post a dissertation-submission celebratory posting, and a nostalgic look back at the months of effort and insights.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

I'm still here!

This blog has gone a bit stale, I know, but I've been rather busy in the real world and haven't got much dissertation news at all!

To be frank, I've been working on the write-up and it's fairly mechanical stuff. I've even taken to setting a timer and working in 30min bursts with quite generous breaks in between just to keep motivation up. I've found it's better to leave myself "hungry" between "shifts" rather than glut myself on writing. Anyhow my brain seems to work quite well like this; the breaks allow some subconscious processing to take place in between the "real" work.

I was a bit unsure as to whether my data really gave me enough to say anything meaningful. But some conversation with my supervisor and reading a few more past dissertations convinced me I'm on the right track, and I don't need to produce PhD level stuff at this stage. So, it's going nicely.

Working on the Methodology today and re-jigging my previous unstructured material into a logical storyline and updating it to reflect what I actually did instead of what I expected to do!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Side-effects of research(!)

On another note, I realised a few days ago that my research has generated MASSES of extra documentation of many kinds (handwritten and electronic notes by the bucketload, tables of blog posts, tables of categories of my own and others' invention, all the postings on this blog of course, my personal research diary from last term...).

What IS all this stuff? What happens to it when I finish? It's a kind of record of the process of thinking through all these ideas and it bears eloquent witness, I think, to the fact that a dissertation is no mean feat.

I <3 Data :)

So, the quest for data, lovely data continues. I am ticking off blogs and categories literally by the tens as the days roll by. Content analysis is actually quite a time-consuming and detailed business, when you get down to it.

I am still in the market for a catchy title: if you are a reader / follower of this blog (presumably a "follower" need not actually read it, just like "joining" Facebook groups doesn't actually commit you in any way!) then please will you post some suggestions for a snappy blogging/content analysis/academic libraries/information literacy-related title in the com-box for this post?

The more buzz-words the better!

I must say, I feel my own information literacy increasing even as I analyse the blogs. There are some shining examples of IL best practice out there, and some really cool resources and tools linked to and described by all you pragmatic bibliobloggers (TM) out there.

Hopefully, I can somehow represent this wealth of knowledge, experience and obvious enthusiasm in my final dissertation. My monthly supervision was yesterday and focussed on running through my results so far, figuring out how they can be presented (shiny graphs and percentages, woo hoo!) and what kind of story they can be made to tell (lies, damned lies...).

I was pretty pleased to find that my supervisor agreed that they do actually tell some kind of story, even the basic numbers regarding how many blogs there are, how often people post etc.

The Multi-Faceted Content Analysis (TM) proper gives another side to the "story" and a third "facet" should consist of an anecdotal report based on my reading of the blogs (after all, I have pretty much reviewed the whole of this "sphere", limited as it is to UK university blogging) and illustrated (literally) with example postings.

It's very tempting to get all sentimental about "my" blogs and keep on adding data ad infinitum but it seems more realistic to aim for ad nauseam and keep my "n" to a level I can cope with. After all, I have to submit this thing. Thankfully, most of the blogs in the UK population ("N") don't fit my criteria for content analysing (based on posting frequency and consistency, not quality at all!) so it's been quick to get through a lot!

Monday, 25 August 2008

The exultation!

Finally, I have data. I have RESULTS!

I've got through 30 blogs in the last 2 days, 10 of which have actually fit my criteria for analysis, so I have a serious chunk of data.

Plus, my previous pilots (all 3 of them!) have produced enough statistics to make some nice, wavy graphs.

I also found a uni library blog which links to my research.

It's a good feeling. I will plow on later today, and maybe until the end of August, before I start tying up the loose ends and trying to figure out what all of this actually means!

I have just given up most of a bank holiday weekend to do research. I must be a potential PhD candidate, surely? ;)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Title: an exploration of the categorisation and labeling of things

I have had a title kicking around for months.

In fact, I've already written large amounts of my final dissertation, in a kind of hypothetical (my supervisor termed it "brain-dump") fashion.

Today I sifted through the huge piles of data I already collected, learned some new statistical functions of Excel, and realised I can get this thing off my back a lot sooner than I expected.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Some tidbits.

I have found some handy hints on writing up.

And dragged up a useful content analysis guide from my bookmarks on my old pc :s

Ah, well. Back to the data trawling tomorrow. I had a great birthday party last night so I've been taking it easy!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Library 2.0 Masters Thesis!

I just dug up this great thesis on Library 2.0 by Michael Habib. That's going on my reading list!

He engages with the meaing of the "2.0" and develops a methodology that can be applied to libraries - and then uses an academic library as an example. Very relevant.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Something strange...

...I thought I'd seen the last of Teen Second Life back at the Lib 2.0 You? conference...

...and it struck me as very strange at the time. Since my PC at home doesn't seem capable of much more than a few Word documents and a bit of 'Net browsing at any one time, I haven't experimented any further with the memory-intensive SecondLife, but looking for some education theories to bolster my dissertation introduction I stumbled on this:

Yes, "Schome" is coming, neither school nor home (actually it's a surreal educational online graphic adventure roleplay, in pre-1990s language!).

There are some truly bizarre photomontages on their blog, of these kids with strange digitally-created heads. I hope this isn't the future of education, just for the sake of good taste!

Seriously, I am a library school student who spends more than half his time online, but come on! This is very strange. It's not like I'm unfamiliar with change in IT; my lifespan has exactly (to the day, actually) coincided with that of the PC, so I've pretty much "tracked changes" since the beginning, and only just kept up, but now I feel like a digital old-timer!

I suppose blogging is just "so '90s" now.

Personal Information Management!

My goodness. I've just finished organising all the paper copies of literature that I've read as background for this project.

They amount to 2 whole lever-arch files full. Plus a big wallet of PhD print-out, and a folder containing my personal notes on the project (see previous post). That is about twice the volume of paper produced by the entire of the first half of my Masters course (the taught part!).

Of course the estimate is skewed somewhat because I got rid of paper copies of lecture notes that were duplicated online or articles I could get from e-prints etc. So they probably amount to almost the same volume of "printout-inches"!

I'm quite pleased that I've read about the same volume of stuff (measured rather crudely, to be sure) for the self-directed part of the Masters.

Well, my next step is to re-shape the outline of the thesis. This I hope to do by making up lots of cards with headings of varying specificity (oh, sorry, I mean granularity! Must keep up...) and then arranging them in some sort of logical order to demonstrate the narrative (of my argument, not the project chronology).

After that, back to the coding scheme (long sigh...) because I think it can be improved again! I dug up some more references on Information Literacy (that course was almost a year ago so I can be forgiven for forgetting) which shed light on the categories I want to use, and which I was on the verge of essentially duplicating! Gosh, what a lot can be gained (and what effort spared!) by just reviewing the past.

Writing a Dissertation - Part 1

While I may not have "done" much on the dissertation work this last fortnight, I have actually been very busy!

I've been settling into my summer job, had an interview up in London, and been working through a "real" content analysis using my new, improved (probably to be re-improved!) coding scheme!

Also, I've been mulling over the ideas my amazing supervisor and I thrashed out over a coffee last meeting. Plus, I've been reading the research guide in the latest ed. of Turabian. It's a rather good, concise, yet detailed, punchy and warmly encouraging blow-by-blow method for just getting down and DOING the dissertation writing!

I've realised that I've taken a rather "interesting" approach to dissertation drafting: I've actually written up most chapters of the thesis already, before I've done the definitive research upon which it is (to be) based!

This is actually an approach vindicated by authors such as Bolker - to get down and write without worrying at all if what you're writing is good, or properly organised etc. It's just a nice way to get oneself moving, get the ideas out of one's head and onto paper where they're not so daunting and may actually suggest new and better ideas.

In addition to this "zero draft", I have a small ream of notes produced in the Bolker free-writing style just documenting the progress of the whole thing - I think it's really helpful to have a "personal blog" which you only use for yourself. Taking back the "journalistic" roots, actually writing a "journal" for one's own personal benefit!

In my last meeting, with my supervisor, we talked about the overall outline of the dissertation, or, in more immediate terms, the plan of action that's slowly taking shape in my brain. It was very encouraging to hear my supervisor talk about possible conclusions and how I could try to relate my results to my aims. I could envisage this finished dissertation sitting there, making sense and hanging together. Wow!

Sitting here with a massive stack of research papers that I've been sorting through for my literature review (and references throughout the report) has made me see this beautiful vision again; the papers seem to fall (given a bit of mental effort and re-shuffling) into various categories... and thinking of the main themes of each paper and each category as I sort through them, I start to re-imagine the "story" (c.f. the Turabian research guide) that they are telling in the context of my research, and how they will support each section!

I got another useful mental model from my last supervision; the idea that each section of the report must at least briefly reference some or all of the other sections, but have as its main emphasis the points it alone is responsible for making. The whole in the part, and the part in the whole!

The physics graduate in me immediately translated this into a series of waveforms with the peak shifting from left to right as you look down the series (the x-axis is "section of report referred to" and the y-axis is "word count") - but that's not a mandatory visualisation! ;)

Thursday, 17 July 2008

More piloting...

...although the dissertation has taken a back seat to my new job, I am back in the comfy chair and fiddling around with previous studies' coding schemes to try to make the perfect research instrument.

It's surprisingly hard work, as all the categories and sub-categories seem to blend into each other after a while and I find myself second- and third-guessing my decisions. I guess I am experiencing the famous "coder fatigue".

Still, the 2nd or 3rd (depending on how you define it) pilot study is going well.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Pilot! Pt. 2

And... we have pilot study. I have my basic results and a newly-formed coding scheme. After all these weeks! It's definitely been a question of building up my confidence and ability to just "go for it", realising that research is meant to be a step into the unknown and it's OK to change things around.

Oh, well, off home now before they close the library. I'm quite enjoying this dissertation lark now.

Library 2 You - the slides are now up!

Here are the presentations from the recent mini-conference on "library 2.0" that I attended:

Library 2 You presentations.

And here's the mini-report I wrote last week:

Library 2 You mini-report.


The pilot!

It's gone well this morning, crunching through a randomised sample of blogs and altering the draft coding scheme as I go.

I got through 5 this morning and discovered one of the principle risks of blog research in the academic sector: lots of out-links to meandering blogs which link to funny e-comics!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


I did a very rough-and-ready pilot with a new coding scheme including some oh-so-scary qualitiative categories... ouch.

I take back everything I've been secretly thinking about content analysis being an easy option.

I randomised my list and ended up picking a highly specialised blog which was not easy to categorise!

The categories for "objective" measures are pretty easy to allocate, but I seriously wonder whether even a suitably qualified coder would pick the same headings as me for the more warm and fuzzy categories.

Oh, well, more piloting tomorrow, it's my free day for university work. Ah, the bliss of a 9-5 routine with a bit of space for disserting.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Back in business!

Hurrah, it's been a good day!

My first day of my new part-time (30 hours per week is part-time?) job in a real live university library, and I've also put together a workable coding framework for the first pilot of my content analysis.

Now I'm off to choir practice for a nice change-is-as-good-as-a-break.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Library 2 You? Mini-conference, mini-report!

Yesterday I attended the Library 2.0 You? mini-conference. There were five speakers and four topics:

  1. Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts
  2. Virtual Environments (e.g. Second Life)
  3. Facebook and the Library Catalogue
  4. Virtual Reference

The first session was the one I actually felt I needed to see (though the others were certainly interesting and useful in their own right). Two librarians from the University of Bath took us through the whole process of impementing a library blog, from focus groups who apparently welcomed the idea of cutting down on mass email alerts, to planning how many blogs to publish and what sort of areas to cover, to the benefits in terms of time-saving, feedback through statistics on blog views, and the problems of promoting blogs to new readers.

One of the speakers made a connection with SCONUL's "vision" for 2010, saying that blogging especially meets the criteria of Personalisation and Collaboration.

The virtual worlds talk was surprisingly interesting, given how little interest I'd taken in Second Life at the LILAC 2008 - and it was somewhat worrying to find out about the virtual worlds being marketed to teens and kids as young as 3...! Apparently Teen Second Life has more users in the USA than the adult version. There were a lot of mentions of cultural change and attention economy and so on... it made me feel a bit strange, having grown up in the 80s and early 90s and just sort of stumbled across all these frankly rather nerdy things which are now becoming big trends (for how long? Even blogging is sort of a has-been by mainstream media standards!) and finding them intersting but not fascinating. What do people see in them? Apparently there's a very recent report from EduServe (hat tip to lindsay55 on CILIP's Communities for that!) on this whole thing.

Facebook and the library catalogue - an interesting confluence from a programming point of view, and I learned a lot about how Facebook works (slightly alarmed by the mention of all the private data on my profile being dumped to the application server every time I access an application... I will be deleting some apps soon, I'm sure!). But is it much use for the library? It would be good to have more feedback on this. I can see the value of having a Facebook presence, certainly, and I love the new OCLC WorldCat citation app, for example. But how is this going to look in future? Will we achieve the "pervasive library" mentioned in this Talis paper? "Pervasive library" was one of the terms used yesterday, but so far it seems the worry is whether things like this will give us the image "invasive library" (I don't think we should worry!).

The final talk was on virtual reference, another application I'd had my doubts about, having seen it in "action" but getting very little use from library users... However, apparently it is in full swing at and we had a session of audience participative evaluation of some (anonymised!) samples of real chat (ah, the excitement!). It's not so trendy any more but I think it's still a good concept and if users like it, why not? Still I only just resisted the temptation to ask, "why not just get everyone on Meebo?"...

All in all, a good day, with fine speakers and good catering ;) - it was good to see such a good turn out from all over the country too. Useful for reminding me that Web 2.0 is not just about blogging.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

More Web 2.0 fun...

...this time courtesy of Wordle (and a hat-tip to Meredith Farkas!):

Yes, it's my dissertation literature review as a tag-cloud! I beleive it must be putting size proportional to word frequency, and clustering terms that occur close to each other in the text closer in the cloud.

That's kind of my dream method for the dissertation actually; to make some sort of automated word frequency analysis and do all kinds of cool stuff to it... but given it's only a Masters and not a PhD in computer science I think we'll have to settle for plain old crank-the-handle Content Analysis.

Blog DNA?

Searching on Facebook for library blog groups to join, I discovered BScopes, a nice little visualisation tool for blogs, showing the posts in chronological order, with all their in- and out-links!

Here's the BScope for this blog: UK BiblioBlogoSphere BScope - it should now be nice and self-referential since it links to itself :)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


This is not strictly about dissertation work, but rather about the whole Masters shebang.

I was catching up on PhD Comics this lunchtime and pondering the reasons why we go through the whole process of qualifying, especially given the well-known and thoroughly discussed and researched controversies over qualifications vs. experience in the library and information field.

Having heard all this cynicism and doom-saying since I got involved in libraries and information over 2 years ago (one can hardly avoid it even in the proffesional journals) I must say that I'm actually quite positive about my masters now that I've made it to the dissertation phase.

I am really interested in the subject and I think I'm likely to write more than I need for the dissertation. I genuinely want to share my findings and use this area of professional knowledge and practice with others, and I hope I can find some work in the academic library sector (eventually; I will be realistic enough to work in another sector if the "right" job doesn't arrive straight awy). All told, I feel pretty lucky to be doing this and I hope I'll look back on the process fondly.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Library 2 You?

There is a one-day conference / workshop entitled "Library 2 You?: Experiences of Web 2.0 in the Library Environment" this Thursday at my university. I can't wait for the session on library blogging. It should be very relevant to my work and cutting-edge and so on, plus I am getting a bit bogged down in the literature review now and maybe some inspiration will shake me up and get me back on track. Hopefully I'll meet some nice people too and make some good professional contacts. I'll do a write-up of my impressions and publish it here.

Feeling a bit of trepidation now that I have my almost-full-time job scheduled for next week; I really look forward to having the structure to plan my life around, of course, but I'm also concerned how I'm going to make the dissertation happen in 3 free days per week over 4 months...! I'm sure it must be possible; others have done it in much harder circumstances. Any tips most welcome.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

In memoriam: Laurel Anne Clyde

If there were to be a sort of hero or saint of the biblioblogosphere, my vote would go to the late Dr. Laurel Anne Clyde.

Her book, "Weblogs in Libraries" is the only scholarly monograph exclusively on this subject that I know of. OK, OK, there are also Mr. Crawford's great books but there are in a different style!

I've been reviewing her literature on the subject today, and there is quite a lot of it! She sort of pioneered the content analysis methods that have been used so far, and was a big advocate of taking this technology seriously in the library context.

If not for her untimely passing away, I'm sure I would have got in touch with her somehow for help with my research! As it is, this project will ultimately be dedicated to her memory.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Reviewing the literature

I have done quite a bit of background reading for this project already, since about 3 or 4 months ago, in fact!

However, until the last few days (i.e. since my first supervision!) I have realised that I wasn't doing a literature review - I was just reading.

Maybe I could claim to have done background reading and made some pretty good notes, but I haven't really reviewed the literature.

Today I ploughed through the whole of Michael Stephens' PhD on library blogging! This was a great experience, because he touches on most points that could possibly be relevant to any study of blogging. Plus, his methodology involved content analysis (more qualitative than what I want to do, but giving me some good pointers).

Plus his literature review is such a good example of the genre that I am now itching to get going with mine. The notes I made as I read pretty much re-structured my entire vision of the lit. review, and I can't wait to get it down on paper... or rather, in pixels.

My profile...

Technorati Profile

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Looks at first glance that most of the blogs are actually quite "fresh" - i.e. they have a post in the last 3 months, if not this month or even this week.

At least this criterion filters out pretty much all of the abandonned blogs. Maybe a stricter criterion or a random sample is needed to ensure feasibility. My time will be limited once I start work next month.

I'm beginning to lean towards using the same kind of scheme as Lee and Bates' paper, since that seems to be a pretty acceptable technique, even in a PhD paper. As long as I am applying their technique to a new dataset, a new geographical area and a new sector, I think I am very much producing something original.

The real life of a postgrad researcher

After an hour of tramping round a deserted campus with a building site obscuring the cashpoints and no food outlets open at this hour, I am safely ensconced in the 24-hour computer lab to complete a 1-day pilot test of the blog currency criterion. Oh! for the 24-hour library... mind you, the aircon is good in here!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

First supervision

I had my first supervision this morning and I'm just writing up the action points which came out of it. Things seem a bit clearer now and I'm quite happy that I'm more or less on the right track.

I need to work on clarifying the statement of my research questions and getting them out of my head and onto paper. I was trying to link the actual content of the blog posts to SCONUL's information literacy model but hadn't developed any clear understanding of how to do that. I think it may be more possible than I expected, given the next point:

The sample is potentially huge, since it's more or less the whole known population of these blogs, correct to the current date! However, if I cut it down to only what's current, i.e. updated in the last month, fortnight or week, it could end up being quite manageable. Hence I would only be looking at a few tens of blogs, and a more in-depth content analysis, with clear categories and some synonyms maybe, could be feasible.

So I plan to brain-storm everything I am planning so far as a mind-map, assess previous studies' coding instruments for relevancy, and go through my current draft dissertation write-up, and maybe aim to do a pilot study of the currency of the blogs to see what size sample I get left with. If it's good I may try out the SCONUL model as a source of categories (somehow!).

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Don't say I never give you anything!

There, the list is done, and done. All that hard work is now yours for the viewing.

You can view the Big List at

The alphabetic tag list shows the blogs sorted into letter categories as well; I tagged them under initial letter (basically following the list of universities) as well as their city name.

The frequency listing is good for seeing which unis have the most blogs; however, this doesn't indicate how "fresh" they are, if indeed they have any posts at all!

Interesting facts so far:

  • Total UK academic library blogs listed on 135 (!)
  • Most prolific blogging university library: Warwick (19 blogs)
  • Strangest UK academic library blog: "Thing of the Day" at Portsmouth.

And a good night to all, that's quite enough for one day!

Ghost blogs

As I trudge through the overflowing sea of academic libary blogs, I've noticed that there are quite a few "ghost blogs" - either they never got off the ground, or they fizzled out a few feet in the air (to mix my Wild West and firework metaphors).

This is quite a pain for content analysis! I need a criterion for assessing whether the blog is "live" still, without chasing up every single author.

Probably I will borrow Walt Crawford's "any posts in the last month?" technique.

A lighter note...

Here's a link to some classic advice on dealing with the dissertation blues, which I first came across in a book entitled "Writing a Thesis"... I don't remember the author though.

And here's a poem which I clipped from "The Epigram", Bristol university's student paper:

The dissertation's fine and well;
My academic summit.
But social life has gone [to] hell (1)
(1) My footnotes watched it plummet

Burroughs, D. (2008). The Epigram. Epigram, 128. 28th Jan.

The poetic image and the rhyme scheme is lovely; but I inserted the "to" in order to make it grammatically and poetically complete... I hope he checked his dissertation more carefully than his epigram!

Both of these little snippets currently grace the wall above my desk; hence the connection to my dissertation, which is progressing even now... slowly!

I'm halfway through the bloglist and checking all the start dates of the blogs. Tedious work but quite useful. Not much point doing a comparative study if they are all on different timescales, or if I don't compensate for this. Also it's handy to show longer-running vs better established blogs. I think the list will be finished by Monday.

I got a reply from Walt Crawford today too, after asking a bit about how he put together his two books on Academic and Public sector library blogs. I think I can safely say I have contacted pretty much everyone involved in this area of research, with a very few exceptions (authors of similiar papers). That's one of the nice things about doing this particular subject; it's very web-oriented and hence very connected.

Friday, 13 June 2008


I'm working on a tagged and alphabetised link list of UK academic library blogs. It will eventually appear here:

I was thinking of keeping the links I'm adding currently private, and check the situation with regards to sharing my research, as this is actually part of the finished work, in the sense of a blog directory and descriptive metadata.

However, then I thought since I'm not really giving away much more than the list, I will put it up. I hope it's helpful to people and also that anyone who can update it will contact me with their new details!

If you have any good ideas or can point me to a resource that deals with this kind of issue, please feel free to let me know in the comments box. After all, this is a project about a social medium so I am keen to share as much as possible - however, the limit would be putting all my draft write-ups online (there are some already!) but I don't think that would go down too well with my university.

I'd also welcome any thoughts on how to analyse the blogs!

Monday, 9 June 2008


Great news. I now have a supervisor. So things can go ahead in earnest. First question to sort out is how detailed and how long a project it's going to be. Watch this space.

Friday, 6 June 2008

New job

I'm not sure if this pertains to the research project in a strict sense, but I received a job offer today and accepted; this means I'll be working over the whole summer and almost into the Autumn term.

Hence I have to put my hand-in date back a bit, most likely. That could actually be a good thing for the research; if I'm able to be more thorough, for example, or spend extra time on preparing a version for publication... I don't really know.

When I get a supervisor, it will hopefully become clearer. I think I need to keep on taking the initiative though, because the supervisor won't tell me what to do!

In any case, it will help me to relax a bit more, since I'll have a routine, and also it will give me a bit more cash than I would have from my research grant.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The post of no posts...

Well, I'm still waiting for a supervisor, so I figure it's a good point to catch up on John Steinbeck novels!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Coding and coders

Having just received the coding scheme from the previous study on which this project is based, I'm quite happy that I can put something together once my supervisor finally materialises.

There are two poles I could aim at; either a large sample and a very statistical overview; or a small sample and a more qualitative investigation.

On the other hand, even with a small sample I could focus more on form (design features) of the blogs, or on their content (post topics and references).

Either way, feasibility is a major factor. One way to avoid the question almost entirely is to base my coding scheme mostly on what's gone before to aim for a good comparison; this would also mean a fairly design-oriented taxonomy which could make for less time-consuming coding.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Big List Part II

Well, I have hand-checked all the 210 emails that pertained to my dissertation, and noted which universities have no blog, and picked up quite a few stragglers.

It transpires that the blog count is now over 130, including all the blogs from various colleges which I doubt will get included. That is quite a few blogs!

Considering I imagine including about 200 blogs as the basic population for this study, that is a pretty high rate of blogging! Of course, a few Unis are responsible for a disproportionate number of blogs, so that skews the average quite a bit. It seems that take-up is rather patchy, with some very prominent institutions lagging behind, and a few unlikely contenders pulling all the weight.

Then again, blogging is not the be-all-and-end-all of librarianship!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Content Analysis!

Krippendorf (2004) is the content analysis bible, as far as I can see from the literature. At one point (page 39) he says:

"Much too often, researchers design content analysis studies ad hoc and
conduct them without any thought of validation; such research contributes
little to the literature on content analysis".

Well, I wonder if he means they don't contribute much to the methodology literature? I'm not too worried about doing that, I'm only doing a short Masters thesis. But I have noticed that a lot of the studies I'm using are rather sparse in terms of methodological considerations.

Hopefully I can design something pretty simple as I only have 2 months to get the thing done.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The big list

I've spent a lot of time over the past 2 weeks just working through a list of Universities and Higher Education Colleges. While this is rather tedious, it's pretty useful. I now have a good feel for what is actually out there in terms of institutions, libraries and blogs. I have a rough overview.

Now I've started putting my data in order using a list of institutions from as a standard. Even more tedious, but it's turning up a few more blogs that I hadn't spotted and gives me the chance to correct a few lines of data. Plus, I have to do SOMETHING between now and Wednesday when I finally get a supervisor. If I have a nice neat dataset to show him/her I'll feel better.

I feel I'm a real librarian... I'm deriving rather too much satisfaction from a nice orderly table!

Friday, 30 May 2008

Hello World!

This is an unofficial blog documenting an Information and Library Management Masters project.

The subject of the project is "blogging in UK academic libraries". The method is content analysis.

I aim to produce a substantial overview of this sector's blogging activity, including a directory of all openly-accessible blogs.

If you are active in this area or would like to know more, please get in touch.

The story so far

I've compiled an initial list of UK blogs. It's long! One problem may be the sheer length of the list. Although I want to go for completeness, time is a major factor since I want to finish this project by the end of August 2008.

Also, I have reviewed pretty much all the literature I want to review (not in any great depth, but since most of it is fairly basic content analysis, there's not much depth to plumb!). There's a surprisingly large amount, although like the biblioblogosphere itself, it's a minority interest and hugely self-referencing.

The interesting thing is the methodology of these content analyses of blogs. It ranges from the truly minimal to the quite technical (and actually one author was responsible for both extremes!).

I don't think I'm ready at the moment to do major statistical analysis, but I am hoping that either

  1. It won't be necessary and I can do an initial exploratory exposition... or...
  2. I can learn it quickly enough! Hopefully my supervisor will advise on this when the time comes. There should be some software to help out in this day and age.

Another good point is that I contacted someone at another University who's doing the same project, basically, but for the public library sector. So we should be able to keep in touch and collaborate a bit (in a fair and transparent way, of course!).

I've also (hopefully) got the previous study which I'm basing mine on in the post to me... so the methodology should be (almost) sorted by next week. Methodology, that's what it's all about!

Since I'm now waiting for a supervisor to be allocated to me, I'm thinking I'll take the weekend (and part of next week!) off. I need some nice ideas for things to do though.