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#iDocQ: PhD discussion conference.

#iDocQ: Information Science Doctoral Colloquium

Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Sunday 19 June 2011

This is the first of two posts to come out of this one day conference ??? the second will focus on the development of my own research ideas as a result (which I'm hoping to post tomorrow, the first anniversary of starting this blog). The following are sketchy notes from some of the keynote talks and the plenary sessions, as well as the work of some other PhD students (there were around twenty of us).

Ross Todd (@RossJTodd) opened the day and led with the information science theme, asking what is shaping our experience of information handling:
  • The means and motivations of people connecting and utilising information.
  • A theme of 'networks of interconnections'.
  • Asking how does the information change us?
  • Describing the journey from information to knowledge.
  • Working towards building the infrastructure to help: school libraries and so on.

Brian Detlor (@briandetlor) discussed his work looking at how people use the web, particularly portals and intranets. The implications for his work stretch from electronic government to information literacy, but on the process of PhD research he highlighted:
  • Identifying a niche for your research, perhaps through an interdisciplinary focus.
  • Adopting a practical approach to defining research topics and data gathering opportunities: creativity and opportunism combining to create innovative research.
  • Building connections with others, whether within your institution or not, so that they can bring their skill-sets to the project.
  • Being generally open to various approaches and methodologies.

Both researchers use both qualitative and quantitative methods, which was roundly supported by everyone at the conference.

Forbes Gibb also spoke, narrowing on key considerations for PhD candidates:
  • Focus on a tight topic
  • Plan your research process
  • Own the PhD
  • Contribute to the research community
  • Challenge: ideas, received wisdom, supervisors, established norms
  • Have fun and be sure to resolve issues

The focus of the day was on the PhD candidates though, who all had a chance to present their ideas in a 'one minute madness' session: in turn we stood up, introduced our ideas, generally tried to say a bit too much then sat down as the next person took over. Good fun... to be seen again in a future class of mine or two I'm sure.

The conference abstracts reflects the breadth of topics being discussed, such as:
  • Storytelling, media convergence and participatory culture in public library everyday work practice
  • An approach to the semantic intelligence cloud
  • New arenas for learning: teacher students' use of participatory media as tools for learning
  • Enacting information ??? cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • An examination of the effective use of information in an organisational context and how it can support decision making in the 'real world'

...as I knew would happen I found myself among people who are considerably further down the road than I, who long ago answered some of the basic questions I'm working through: defining a clear research problem for starters. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, I gained a lot from the supportive atmosphere that permeated the whole day (and the preceding night's conference dinner). As a teaching academic with four year's experience under my belt I've got the sort of job that many of these students hope will follow their doctorate; for that I am grateful and hope that I can use the research and teaching to inform each other in the coming years.

There was full support behind making #iDocQ an annual gathering, rotating between the institutions that have combined to set it up (which includes Edinburgh Napier). Students will therefore be able to chart their progress from one conference to the next, using them as early summer waypoints. (Big thanks to Katie Morrison (@Miss_KatieMo) and all the organisers and contributors.)

Bringing together researchers from a wide range of topics, countries and methods worked really well: everyone had something to contribute and could learn a lot from the trials and successes of others. Getting support from some excellent researchers for the keynotes and advice sessions was crucial, so the closing word is from Hazel Hall (@hazelh) on what she looks for in a PhD...
  • Does it contribute new knowledge?
  • Does it have interest for peers in both industry and academia?
  • Does it demonstrate research competency in the author?

...sage advice, particularly for anyone who happens to have Prof. Hall as a supervisor.


Breda on screen.