Competency L

Demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature.

To a librarian or information professional, research can take a different meaning than in other applications. Many times, research means basic research, or the act of identifying, evaluating, and accessing information from different sources to derive new knowledge. While information professionals may assist their clientele with this general type of research, many themselves are engaged in applied research, which is comprised of specific research techniques and is focused on solving specific problems in specific situations (Connaway & Powell, 2010). In fact, this latter research type makes up the majority of research literature contributed to the Library and Information Science (LIS) resource database (Powell, 2018).  “Basic research often leads to practical applications, while applied research frequently acts as a foundation for subsequent theoretical or basic research” (Connaway & Powell, 2010, p.2). For an information professional, active research can often be used to determine how well their programming is performing, and can be used in evaluative research, input measurements, performance measurements, process evaluations, impact assessments, service quality assessments, benchmarking, standards assessments, and cost analyses (Powell, 2018).  

Both basic and applied research may utilize quantitative  and qualitative methods. Quantitative research is focused on assigning a value to concepts so that they may be measured and evaluated (Connaway & Powell, 2010). It is an approach that is generally highly structured and designed as a method of problem-solving.  Qualitative research, on the other hand, takes a more natural approach and is focused on “observing events from the perspective of those involved and attempt[ing] to understand why individuals behave as they do” (Connaway & Powell, 2010, p.2). Very often, both qualitative and quantitative research are employed in the same research project. 

The methods used to gather data for LIS research are varied and some projects may employ more than one method to gather the necessary data.  These most common methods include: 

  • Surveys
    Surveys are appropriate for determining the status of a phenomena, for studying personal factors, and for looking at topics over a disperse geographical audience (Powell, 2018). They tend to gather qualitative data rather than quantitative data and often describe characteristics of a population through the distribution of a questionnaire, interviews, or observations (Powell, 2018).  
  • Experiments
    Experiments often test causal relationships and collect quantitative data. In an experiment, an independent variable is controlled and the effect of that variable on dependent variables is observed (Powell, 2018).  
  • Histories
    Historical research attempts to glean meaning from historical events to facilitate future planning (Powell, 2018). This is done through looking at context, interpreting meaning, and examining relationships (Powell, 2018).  
  • Case Studies
    Case studies are often used in LIS research as an exploratory technique to examine situations that involve multiple factors and relationships through interviews or other data collection techniques (Powell, 2018). This data tends to be qualitative, but can also be quantitative, and is limited to a single event, program, or organization. 
  • Focus Groups
    A focus group can be a stand alone event in data gathering, or can be a part of a survey. These unstructured interviews explore the “feelings, attitudes, and behavior of a fairly small group of participants” (Powell, 2018, p.248).
  • Delphi Studies
    A Delphi study gathers consensus among a group of experts. This is done by the group first making predictions on a topic, then a single person gathering literature on the topic and distributing that to each participant to edit and revise until there is a consensus that everyone is content with the information (Powell, 2018).

Once the data is collected, it must be analyzed by the researcher, whether quantitative or qualitative. If the data is quantitative, the analysis generates statistical information that generalizes the characteristics of the sample, and if qualitative, this analysis is done through content analysis or the constant comparative method (Powell, 2018). Both of these methods are used to convey meaning and demonstrate the value of programming and services to stakeholders and governing entities.

Competency Development

While I had previously engaged in research and had created and distributed surveys to gather information in different professional environments, I had not meaningfully engaged in applied research prior to my time at SJSU iSchool. In my courses I studied the methods of applied research. created a study proposal, and engaged in the meaningful application of these concepts delivered in my coursework.  In numerous assignments in my MLIS journey, I had the opportunity to evaluate and synthesize literature in my research, as evidenced below.


Death & Digital Assets Research Proposal
INFO285 // Applied Research Methods

I submit this research proposal as the summative assignment from the Applied Research Methods course. In this assignment, I synergize the relevant literature on a technology-based topic and design a study to understand the scope of the problem regarding public trends. This study examines whether users are aware of their rights (or lack of them) in the storage of their personal digital assets, and whether the population is motivated to become engaged in legislation on the matter. 

Linked Open Data and its Metadata Mechanisms for Libraries

I selected this assignment in support of this competency because it demonstrates my ability to research a topic and synthesize that literature into a meaningful form to support further analysis and foster new knowledge. 

Using Cost Benefit Analysis as a Tool to Develop Library Budgets
INFO282 // Financial Management

I selected this assignment in support of this competency because in it I explain the modalities and methods involved in engaging in a cost-benefit analysis. This is an example of the synergy of research and how the tools are actively applied in an information environment. 


Whether evaluating services or programs within the information environment or conducting a study as an academic pursuit, the process and application of research methods are an important skill for information professionals.  Through understanding the purposes of quantitative and qualitative research, and the modalities of gathering data for each, I can facilitate a greater level of understanding for myself and my governing body. I can apply these methods not only in my daily work to demonstrate my value, but also when developing professional insights for a wider audience. 


Connaway, L. S., & Powell, R. R. (2010). Basic research methods for librarians (5th ed). Libraries Unlimited.

Powell, R. R. (2018). Research. In K. Haycock & M.-J. Romaniuk (Eds.), The portable MLIS: insights from the experts (Second edition). Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Stenstrom, C. (2015). Demonstrating Value. In S. Hirsh (Ed.), Information Services today: An introduction. Rowman & Littlefield.

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