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Study to track students' digital research journey

Discovering and navigating digital information is part of the everyday work of today’s researcher, but what is that user experience and how could it be improved?

In a unique collaboration, Taylor & Francis is working with Loughborough University’s Library, Graduate School, and Senior Lecturer in Publishing to examine users’ experience in the digital library.

The University has recruited ten PhD researchers to this project from a wide range of disciplines. The students are also at different levels in their PhD completion - from those just embarking on research to those about to complete.

Charlotte Jais is one of the students involved and she outlines her experience of digital research: “Trying to find the information that you need can be one of the most challenging things. It can be quite difficult sometimes to know where to start looking and searching for information can be time consuming if you have several pages of search results to work through!”

Every month between November 2015 and June 2016, students are being asked a series of standard questions about the type of information they needed that month. This includes where they started it, what resources they used, and crucially the “journey” that they took to reach the resources. They are also asked to describe good features, advantages, disadvantages, frustrations, ideas they had about the information seeking experience.

An open question on a different theme is added each month; themes such as the continued relevance of print, how to develop information seeking behaviour and a comparison of three publishers’ websites. Students are assigned a mentor from the University to provide guidance and support. A focus group will also be held with participants and a wider group of researchers in March.

Graham Walton, from Loughborough University Library and a member of the project steering group said: “Unless we understand the experiences the users have when they search for information, we will really struggle to provide the right services. It is easy to get statistics on downloads and site hits but that only gives a small part of the picture. This project will give us insight that has long been needed.”

Max Gabriel, Head of Group Digital Strategy at Taylor & Francis, comments: “As part of our commitment to supporting academic and library communities we intend to understand how researchers are accessing information. By working together with Loughborough University, we hope to improve the user experience of online resources in terms of discoverability, accessibility and usability.”

Tracy Roberts, Publishing Director at Taylor & Francis explained the value of this project to publishers, librarians and universities: “As publishers, we want to provide the best user experience to facilitate the research process, and we want to work with librarians and universities who are focused on improving the experience for their students. We are very pleased to be able to work with Loughborough University on this project and anticipate the outcomes being of value to all those with an interest in the wider academic, library and research communities.”  

Outcomes from the project will be disseminated in various ways during the course of this year. Meanwhile, for more details read Graham Walton’s blog post and the first of several researcher profiles of the participants.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 16/07

Project steering group members:

  • Taylor & Francis: Tracy Roberts, Publishing Director, Arts, Humanities & Social Science Journals, Will Frass, Senior Research Executive
  • Loughborough University Graduate School and Research Office: Dr Katryna Kalawsky, Postgraduate Research Student Development Officer; Dr Kathryn North, Head of Researcher Development; Dr Duncan Stanley, Research Staff and Student Development Adviser.
  • Loughborough University Library: Dr Gareth Cole, Research Data Manager; Emma Walton, Director of Library Services; Dr Graham Walton , Assistant Director (Academic and User Services);  Helen Young, Academic Services Manager
  • Loughborough University School of Arts, English and Drama: Dr Jenny Fry, Senior Lecturer

About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named University of the Year in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. It was 2nd in the 2015 THE Student Experience Survey and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

About Taylor & Francis Group

Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life.  As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine.

From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.

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