“Are you here as a PhD student, or as a Librarian? Or are you presenting today?”

Over the past week, I’ve been in at least three workshops talking about the experiences of being a PhD student. Today I’m in Monash University’s Art Design and Architecture Thesis Writing Bootcamp. Yesterday, I listened to three previous Masters/PhD students talk about their experiences of writing and supervision. The day before, it was a session for Design students on how to write a literature review.

The feeling of being an insider and also an outsider – an “objective observer” of the process – is so odd. The best thing about it is that last year, I felt so jealous of all the students around me undertaking major projects. Now I’m doing it too, which is what I always wanted. But I still feel conflicted. This has a direct correlation to my PhD topic. Today, I ask myself: am I a PhD student, or am I a librarian? Everyday, I ask myself: am I a teacher, or am I a librarian? What is this conflict I feel about being both at once, and do other people experience this conflict?

The space between being a PhD student and a worker is liminal. I’ve begun the “ritual” of the PhD, but still hold my pre-ritual status of being a worker, and in particular, as a “helper” of others undertaking their PhD (and this also presumes that I will be something altogether different after I finish my PhD). Is this the same for teaching? I don’t think so. Being a teacher is not a short-term part of being a librarian. Instead, it’s a sub-section of a role. Instead of moving back and forth between two identities (that of librarian and PhD student), being a teacher is a role within librarianship. But why does is feel as though it is a similarly complicated space?

Research Questions

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In Semester 1 2014, I completed EER500: Introduction to Educational Research (taught by Dr Bev Moriarty, who is AMAZING) which covered the development of research questions. I know that my research question(s) will undergo refinement as I read more on the topic, but I need to go back and look at why they are still not clear. I still have the checklist I put together, way back when…

The question(s) as they stand now, and as appeared in my initial proposal:

What impact, if any, does increasing emphasis on teaching and learning in Australian University libraries have on the construction of the professional identities of librarians?

– How has the role of academic librarians as teachers changed over time according to librarians’ perceptions of the roles, and the academic literature?

– What do academic librarians in Australian universities know about teaching and learning?

– In what ways does teaching knowledge and practice contribute towards the creation of academic librarians’ professional identity?

Checklist for determination of research question quality:

Language of the research question

  • Is the research question free from jargon (Hubbard & Power, 1999) and generally intelligible (Bryman, 2012)?
  • Is the research question clearly separate from:
    –    a statement of topic
    –    a statement of ‘problem’
    –    a statement of purpose (Creswell, 2012)?
  • Does the wording of the research question suggest bias on the researcher’s behalf (Agee, 2009)?

Breadth/depth of the research question

  • Is the question answerable (Punch, 2009) and/or researchable (Bryman, 2012)?
  • Is the research question generative, in that it leads to further questions (O’Toole & Beckett, 2010)?

Origin of the research question

  • Is the research question connected to established theory, research and/or literature (Bryman, 2012)?
  • Has the research question been developed as part of a dialogic process, in conjunction with others (Punch, 2009), including the subjects of the research, where appropriate (Lassiter, 2005)?

Impact of the research question

  • Will the answer to the research question lead to the improvement of society (Gray, et al. 2007)? Or, in other words, is the question ‘worth answering’ (Nutefall & Ryder, 2010)?

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Based on these questions, I keep flip-flopping back and forward around my question. My most recent alternate questions is:

In what ways is teaching accepted and rejected as part of Australian academic librarians’ professional identity, and what has contributed to this?

The reason I think this is a better question is that the ‘increasing emphasis on teaching and learning in Australian University libraries‘ is just one of the factors that has contributed to librarians having to make teaching part of their professional identity… But maybe there’s a better way to word this.