Research Methods: Information, Systems and Contexts

Philip Calvert (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 3 November 2014




Philip Calvert (2014), "Research Methods: Information, Systems and Contexts", The Electronic Library, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 925-926.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

There are already several good texts on research methods for information professionals, so is there a need for one more? Recent publications have included Pickard’s Research methods in information (2nd edition Facet, 2013) and Wallace and Van Fleet’s Knowledge into action: research and evaluation in library and information science (Libraries Unlimited, 2012). The justification for this volume lies in its comprehensiveness. It aims (and largely succeeds) in spreading its scope beyond library science to encompass archives and records management, and more surprisingly, information systems and knowledge management. Central to this is a crucial chapter by Cecez-Kecmanovic and Keenan on the “methodological landscape” of information systems and knowledge management, both of which are often focused on the use of information technology and IT-based systems. I wish there was more on how the concept of knowledge and all the epistemological problems that surround it could be researched, though Table 5.2 was very thorough and would be useful to anyone starting research in the field. There is a chapter by Shanks and Bekmamedova on case study research in information systems, a method that is perhaps not used as much for investigating libraries as it merits, and a chapter on the design science research method often used to produce useable artefacts for the information system.

There are four parts to the book. Section 1 (five chapters) is a thorough introduction to research in the different sectors previously mentioned. Section 2 (nine chapters) deals with the actual methods: surveys, case studies, action research, grounded theory, bibliometric research, design science research, historical research, ethnographic and finally experimental research. Giving individual chapters to constructionist grounded theory (by Herring) and to design science research (by Weber) marks out some new territory for a general research methods text. I enjoyed Johanson’s chapter on historical research, a form of enquiry that used to be very popular but seems to be less fashionable these days. He ensures we see the big picture, both of what can be done and the methodologies that can be utilised. Section 3 (five chapters) is about techniques: populations and samples, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, observation (an underused methodology), and then, of course, quantitative and qualitative data analysis. The chapter on quantitative by Sheard uses examples from a course for IT students that is built around an analysis of a project management website. Section 4 (three chapters) covers the management of research including ethical issues. Some of these topics, especially the handling of research data, are over overlooked and may never occur to the tyro researcher, so it is good to see them here.

In some universities teaching information management there are far too many courses on research methods, with each small domain jealous of its own course. This book at least offers a text that could be used in a merged research methods course for students in information systems, knowledge management, library studies and archives and records management.

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