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Researchers of Tomorrow A three year (BL/JISC) study tracking the research behaviour of 'Generation Y' doctoral students. Some findings from Year 1. Introduction.

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Some findings from Year 1

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Researchers of TomorrowA three year (BL/JISC) study tracking the research behaviour of 'Generation Y' doctoral students

Some findings from Year 1


  • 2007: The Google Generation Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future research (CIBER): focusing on ‘digital natives’ born after 1993

  • 2009: Researchers of Tomorrow focusing on doctoral students born between 1982 – 1994, ‘Generation Y’

  • Aims to “establish a benchmark for research behaviour” and “provide guidance to the community of libraries and information specialists on how best to meet the research needs of Gen Y scholars and immediate successors.”

Areas of research

  • mapping emerging research behaviour trends across the main subject disciplines;

  • investigating how doctoral scholars, in particular those from Gen Y, seek information both on and offline;

  • measuring the relative use of digital resources and physical resources;

  • understanding how Gen Y students search for and use digital content for research; and

  • if and how they use emergent technologies


  • Gen Y cohort: 60 Gen Y doctoral students recruited in a 2½ year longitudinal study: contributions in blog entries, discussion forums, one-to-one interviews and a discussion workshop held in February 2010.

  • Gen Y survey sample: 2,063 Gen Y doctoral students completed annual national context-setting survey in July 2009.

  • Wider survey sample: 3,347 other UK doctoral students also completed same annual national context-setting survey.

The first year

  • Used the national survey to do some ‘ground-clearing’ research about resources used, training and support received, technology used

  • Results broadly bear out what is already known about the research community

  • The Gen Y cohort – early questions and blogs about who they are, what they are researching, their research environment, where they work etc.

  • One interesting discussion workshop with 45 participants in the cohort

Ways of searching for information….

What were they looking for?

Research resources most used…

Training in information and research skills

Support in information seeking and research

Using technology

Where do they get help in using technology…

Emerging findings 1

  • Not dramatic differences between Gen Y students and other age groups

  • Indications that

    • Gen Y students slightly less likely to turn to library staff (especially subject librarians) for help

    • Gen Y more likely to rely on supervisors for recommendations on research resources and technology support

    • Gen Y more likely to turn to other students for help and support using technology

Emerging findings 2

  • Gen Y students are

    • Conservative and risk averse in research behaviour e.g. choice of information sources, awareness of the need for authority and authenticity

    • Embrace technology readily and use it intuitively BUT

    • Sceptical about the inherent merits of technology and do not equate ease of access with quality of resource

Emerging findings 3

  • Gen Y students are willing to put in effort to learn to use new tools if the following factors are evident:

    • tools complement, not challenge ways of working (essentially traditional and guided by their supervisors);

    • pay back for effort is clear in terms of their research;

    • support in adopting new applications is readily available, especially from peers or supervisors

Questions for the next year

  • The role of supervisors and technology take-up

  • Attitudes towards using mediated content and intermediaries in research support

  • Attitudes towards using open access

    • As research resources

    • As places to publish their own research

  • What kinds of training and support would best serve their needs

Researchers of Tomorrow


Julie Carpenter

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