Research in Collaboration: Why I’m talking about my research

A picture of many megaphones
If you know me or have collaborated with me before, you know I have a certain energy when I’m really jazzed about something. The sort of energy where you can truly sense my enthusiasm as it oozes out of me. And when I begin, I give you a look that says, “Buckle up, I’m jazzed and you’re about to know why.”

Right now, I feel that way about this research project. As Ally mentioned, we have been testing out our questions and the mapping activity itself. We’ve done four practice interviews and I feel my head is full of ideas. I see so many connections from these interviews to the theory that exists within higher education on student engagement, and to the educational framework that the Student Engagement Network (and Penn State Faculty Senate) has been working on for years. I can only imagine what sort of information we’ll have to share once we’ve done the 24, on-the-record, interviews. I believe this project has tremendous potential, and the interviews we’ve done so far have confirmed that.


I think there’s something to be said about talking about your research with others. It’s something I try to encourage first-year students to think about, when they’re in my one-shot instruction sessions. There’s usually a quiet hum as they explore LionSearch, but honestly, I wish they were talking to their neighbor about their keywords or the sweet article they just discovered. Research cannot be done in isolation and I’m seeing that so clearly in my work.

Since I’ve returned from IRDL, I’ve had the opportunity to make my research pitch, to librarians, to non-library folk, to those heavily invested in student engagement, and to those who don’t know what that phase means. When someone asks how my fall is going, I make sure to mention this project. And each time I talk to someone who wants to know more, they ask interesting questions, or make comments that make me think about my work in a new light. Having Ally on the team means that I also get someone who is equally invested and entrenched in the project. I’m thankful to have her as a sounding board, and as the student voice that I know makes this project more relevant for the folks our results will impact the most: Penn State students.

Some of this support and encouragement to talk about my research is also enhanced by being part of the IRDL 2019 cohort. This group meets on a monthly basis, and I have had the chance to hear about how my peers are doing with their research projects. It’s exciting to hear what steps they have made, or how they are setting aside time to do this work. In addition, IRDL gave me a mentor, Jill, who has been helpful in thinking through this project. During a recent meeting with her, she asked about my data management plan and our conversation spun off into discussing de-identifying information that might show up during the mapping activity. These conversations remind that my expertise lies in the ideas of student engagement and the journey map, and I need to rely on others to help me through other elements of the research project. I need their help and I am so happy they are there.

This desire to share my progress is also what pushed me to start this blog. I think something is lost when we just see the final product of original research, whether that be an article in a journal, or a presentation at a conference. What’s lost is that squishy middle of research; where things go really well and or things don’t pan out like we thought. As a librarian, on the tenure track, but at the beginning of my LIS research journey, I want to be intentional about documenting this process. I guess it’s no wonder that I was a founding member of The Librarian Parlor, where we strive to make this process more transparent and build a community around LIS research.

As Ally and I begin to recruit our participants this week and next week, I’ll be publishing a few posts on the set of student names we are using, along with our process of solidifying our interview questions. Stay tuned to get the inside scoop.

To all those who have heard some version of this research — thank you. I can’t wait to keep sharing this work with you.

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Student Engagement Coordinator at Penn State University Libraries. When she's not in the library, Hailley is an avid oatmeal connoisseur, baseball scorekeeper, bike rider, embroidery queen, and reader of memoirs. Check her out on Twitter @hailthefargoats.

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