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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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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

Training in information and research skills

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

[email protected]