13 comments on “I pity the students and researchers

  1. Bravo, Roddy! An excellent, apt, and appropriate observation. It isn’t just true with theses & dissertations, tho. This is the issue with basically all information now. Libraries are giving up on authority control, many have quit adding structuring subject headings. Databases are failing in favor of web search engines (that don’t include the “deep web” information). We are in the middle of a “sea-change” in how we find qualitative authoritative information, and the burden for determining authority relies ever more upon the information end-user. I don’t know what the new model will be, but these are tricky times, indeed.

  2. And the problem is made much worse by the fact that the BL now does not lend recent US theses via ILL “With effect from 1 September 2001, US doctoral theses are no longer acquired by the Document Supply service. If the British Library does not hold the thesis you require, you may wish to contact UMI (Proquest Information and Learning, tel. 01223 271258) with a view to purchasing a copy”

    Very funny. I have probably 500 theses that I need to look at for a bibliography. to check relevance and the references. The cost would be horrendous & I don’t need them for long-term research.

    The BL provides lots of services to the world (scans of mss etc), but something basic like providing a comprehensive ILL service to the UK is ignored

  3. I think they must have taken a rest to read Ancient Futures, which is all about this sort of thing, and is available for only 86p from Kindle Amazon!! Hotboy


    Roddy MacLeod: “Institutional repositories, especially, have added to the ‘noise’, and there’s not even one place you can go to find materials in the thousands of institutional repositories.”

    Have websites, especially, added to the noise? not even one place you can go to find materials in the hundreds of millions of websites on the web?

    Try pubmed, scirus, scopus, citeseer, citebase, base, WoK, google scholar, google…

  5. Hi Steve, thanks for your comment.

    Not entirely sure what you’re saying there. Whilst some of the sources you mention are very good at providing access to sections of the information environment, it is nevertheless nowadays a daunting and complex task for students/researchers to do a systematic literature search, and as Patricia Anderson shows, finding theses in particular can be very complex.

    WRT finding stuff in institutional repositories, whilst Scirus and Google Scholar, especially, index some of them, much of IR content is as yet totally burried.

  6. Hi Patricia,

    You wrote “…the burden for determining authority relies ever more upon the information end-user.”

    Very true. And that’s a big turn off for your average student.

  7. @Steve, you put your finger on the button. I have for several years been teaching and writing and presenting about expert web searching. I am very content with my ability to locate high quality information for my research needs via public sources, and rarely rely on databases other than PubMed (which is another public source).

    @Roddy, re. “that’s a big turn off for your average student”, I disagree. The culture and standards change. People, including students, are for he most part happy to accept what they find. When I started as a librarian, there was one faculty emeritus who complained students didn’t understand how to evaluate the quality of peer reviewed articles, many of which were full or errors. My mentor in grad school complained that I was the only student he had that would research a topic back before the beginning of MEDLINE, and that his other students seemed to think the intellectual world began in 1966. There are many similar stories from other eras. This bothers the teachers more than the students, most of the time. The exception is where there is that one known item you can’t locate, which is when you ask your librarian, eh?

  8. Common sense would suggest students who phone/skype/twitter/IRC/blog/SMS/mash should find thesis hunting a breeze, though less entertaining. But I suppose it’s a very different kind of activity – solitary, closed and uncertain.

  9. Hi Rob,

    Some surveys have looked into this, and have come to the conclusion that whilst Generation Y is good at using apps, they tend to be no better at finding quality information or understanding search than other generations.

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