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Researchers’ learning lives symposium information literacy and researchers. Moira Bent Jo Webb Pat Gannon-Leary. Background. RIN surveys and research Research De Montfort workshops Interviews Subsequent presentations, feedback and research and reflection

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Researchers learning lives symposium information literacy and researchers

Researchers’ learning lives symposiuminformation literacy and researchers

Moira Bent

Jo Webb

Pat Gannon-Leary


RIN surveys and research


De Montfort workshops


Subsequent presentations, feedback and research and reflection

Emergent model of ‘7 ages of research’ (articles at press and conference papers)

What this session will cover
What this session will cover

  • Interactive discussion of how:

    • we should/would define and describe ‘research’ and ‘researchers’

    • what we might agree to be researchers’ learning needs

    • how those learning needs change based on age / career stage / experience and external influences

  • Some ways of using educational theory to interpret researchers’ learning needs

  • Suggestions for practical application

  • Session will be interactive and participative

What we won t tell you
What we won’t tell you

  • How to run a perfect workshop

  • A blueprint for working with all researchers

  • The solutions to the JSS / Roberts / REF agenda/s

    • You must define your own institutional framework

What do you think
What do you think?

  • What is research? What is a researcher?

  • Who are the researchers with whom you work?

  • What do you think are your researchers’ learning needs?

What the researchers said 1
What the researchers said 1

Research is

Theory-led; Data-led; Scholarship

Grounded in disciplines; multi / inter / trans disciplinary

Investigation; interpretation; gathering evidence

A holistic activity; a set of transferable skills

Collaborative / solo activity

Related to self

Validated by peer group

Made meaningful by an external audience

… concept is disputed at every level but meaning is often implicit and not known outside CoP

What the researchers said 2
What the researchers said 2

Researchers are:

Usually recognised within organization and…

people who find out new things, reflect and take action

at different levels and career stages

working in different disciplines

obliged to share what they find – to put knowledge into the public domain

ready to be challenged

making connections



7 ages of research

Masters students

Doctoral students

Contract researchers

Early career researchers

Established academic staff

Senior researchers





7 ages of research

Life course analysis of il
Life course analysis of IL

Sociological approach to reviewing sociostructural and institutional contexts of life paths in contemporary societies

Perspective on research/er careers and hence information needs

Individual through progress/process of life and organization

Stages / Link of learning / information need and development


  • Apprenticeship - influenced by supervisors / tutors / mentors

  • Skills and competences are defined (also funded and monitored)

  • Different levels of control

  • Transition from structured learning to self-organization

  • Interaction between personal life / prior experiences

  • Managing different roles e.g. other jobs, developing teaching skills

  • Information consumer, objective is production


  • I consider myself to be at the start of my research career, although I have been doing research for about 4 years. [Recent PhD graduate, South Africa]

  • I don’t think I was a good researcher for my PhD. You need to have a mentor to show you the ropes and the pitfalls. You can train for some things. The best is to work alongside someone successful and learn from them. [Dean of Research, UK]

  • I reckon I spent nearly all my first year reading journal articles. [Computing Sciences Final year PhD]


Moving field / moving role / learning a different landscape

Balancing teaching and research

support / info guiding work management in different circumstances

situating yourself / making your name / establishing credentials

locally (e.g. in department)

wider research community

Need to be adaptable / avoiding isolation

Starting to supervise other researchers

Starting role in management / administration

Information production and consumption

Shift from systematic to pragmatic information retrieval

‘Librarians love to search. Everyone else likes to find’


  • I hardly ever use databases, probably because I’m not usually starting from a position of knowing nothing. I tend to start with a few key papers and then follow up their references. [Senior lecturer in Biology]

  • I used to be focused in my approach to finding mainstream resources, now I’m less so, more explorative. I guess looking for inspiration for my more mainstream ideas. [Senior Research Fellow in creative technologies] p.158

Late senior
Late / Senior

  • Developing into/ having a significant role in research leadership and administration

  • Leading research teams / research centres / research projects / mainstream management

  • Supervising and examining theses

  • Teaching research methods

  • Plenary conference speaker

  • Editorial board of journals etc.

  • Refereeing / peer reviewer / specialist assessor

  • Disseminating research practice or defining their field

    • Different IL skillsets for range of activities


  • I have 5 years to retirement but research is becoming more important in my career. I still have one, even though retirement is looming [South African researcher]

  • If I couldn’t find it myself on the Internet, then I’d ask my students first, my RAs, then I’d come to the library. The RAs live and die finding info. [Professor of Industrial Statistics, UK]

  • These days all my papers are invited plenaries and similar tertiary reviews. [Retired Professor of Chemistry, UK]

  • As a researcher, the difference is that I know how to do research and I am connected into all the networks. [Dean of Research, Humanities, UK]

Researchers learning lives
Researchers learning lives

  • Andragogy or pedagogy?

    • Recognise the need to know

    • Researchers should be responsible for own decisions and treated as capable of self-direction

    • Role of previous and ongoing experience

    • Readiness to learn

    • Orientation to learning

  • Overly-didactic approaches are not key to effective IL development

Researchers learning lives the 7 ages model
Researchers’ learning lives - the 7 ages model

  • Different conceptions of research and learning needs / IL by age and/or career stage

  • Interviews indicated:

    • Earlier experiences (and emotions) influenced present behaviours

    • Needs and priorities varied at discrete career stages

    • Attitudes and values change at each stage

  • Threshold concepts and life course analysis

  • IL is more than skills and training and must include attitude and values based in the wider concept of a life course

Il and researchers
IL and Researchers

  • Recognise differences

  • Skills and information behaviours

  • Focus on management and information need rather than finding

  • Change agency / advocacy role