30 July 2011

Project research methods

Some time ago now I said I'd post in more detail about the research methods I'm using for this project. Fortunately my actual use of these methods has been developing at a better pace than this post explaining them!

The plan I've devised has three main strands:
  1. a case study of social enterprise material in the British Library's collections;

  2. searching other library catalogues for materials relating to social enterprise;

  3. a series of initial interviews with a small number of people involved in social enterprise and relevant library and information services, leading to the development of a questionnaire for a larger group of people.
1. Case study of social enterprise material in the British Library collections
This project is funded and supported by the British Library, so I'm very fortunate to be able to link my research quite closely to the British Library's collections. I've carried out a search of the British Library's resources for social enterprise, using a small selection of relevant keywords and phrases, and I hope to be able to track the amount of use of some of these materials, both printed and online - always remembering the British Library itself is a very valuable information resource. I'm also keen to explore and use information about a range of different collection-related projects at the library.

2. Library catalogue survey of materials for social enterprise
I am using the same search terms used on the BL catalogue in strand 1 to search for similar materials in other libraries across different sectors (eg public, academic, health or other special libraries). I'm planning to search around 120-150 catalogues in total.

I will be interested to see how results from different libraries relate to the results from the BL - this might include:
  • identifying works which frequently appear in different collections;

  • identifying works not located in the BL search;

  • comparing the level of detail provided by different types of information services (for example, which collections may include details of journal articles alongside books);

  • comparing different collection approaches to web-based grey literature - such as PDFs of reports or policy statements.
3. Interviews and the questionnaire
So far I've carried out eight interviews - some with people involved in social enterprises, some with academics and researchers and some with those involved in providing library and information services relevant to social enterprise. I'd like to thank everyone who has taken part in these interviews so far - I've had some very helpful and insightful conversations. I hope to interview between thirteen and fifteen people in total, including more library and information professionals. I will use some of the inital results from my catalogue searching in strand 2 to identify library and information services with particularly interesting collections for social enterprise to approach for interviews.

I will blog in more detail about the interview process and about transcribing interviews, which is currently the major focus of my work outside time spent interviewing.

This interview data will enable me to draw initial conclusions about issues regarding information and library collections for social enterprise. To test whether the ideas emerging from the interviews can be generalised more widely across the field, I will then develop a questionnaire to send to a much bigger group of people some time in late 2011 or early 2012.


  1. I begin to understand now! Thanks for the update and sorry it took me so long to comment! I wonder what tool you are using to compare catalogue results?
    - Norman A Nonymouse

  2. Thanks for your comment - I'm glad this helps! For the catalogue results, I've built myself a simple relational database (that's half a dozen words I never thought I'd say...) and then I'll be looking for a data visualisation tool to display the results. I'm using Nvivo for some of my other data, so I may be able to get basic charts of catalogue results from that - but I'm also interested in exploring some of the online data tools such as Google Fusion. Have you come across anything good?