Assessing the Fitness of an Academic Library for Doctoral Research

Susan Edwards, Lynn Jones

Abstract


Objective – At the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), researchers compared how well the library collections supported doctoral research in the three related disciplines of education, psychology, and social welfare. The goal of this project was to gather empirical data to answer questions about materials cited in dissertations, including ownership, age of materials and disciplinary usage.

Methods – Researchers analyzed the bibliographies of doctoral dissertations from three academic departments at UCB: education (2009-2010), psychology (2009-2010), and social welfare (2009-2011). The sampling methodology used a systematic sample with a random start. To achieve a 95% (+/-4%) confidence interval, the sample included a total of 3,372 citations from 107 dissertations. Researchers consulted with a statistician to determine the statistical significance of the results. The test for the age of citation used a signed ranks test, which is typical for ordinal data or skewed interval data. The test for ownership was a chi-square test, which is typical for nominal data or dichotomous data.

Results – Researchers determined that a very high percentage of the cited journals were owned or licensed by the Library. The ownership rate for cited journals was 97% for both education and social welfare, and 99% for psychology. There was a statistically significant difference between the three disciplines, with psychology better supported than either education (p=.02) or social welfare (p=.01). However, since ownership rates for journals in all three disciplines were extremely high, this was not a meaningful difference. For books, the researchers found a significantly smaller percentage of books owned in social welfare compared to either education (p=.00) or psychology (p=.00). We found no significant difference between the percentages of books owned in psychology versus education (p=.27). Psychology students cited the highest percentage of journals while education students cited the highest percentage of books. Psychology students cited almost no free web resources, but education and social welfare students did cite free web resources (primarily government documents, working papers, or non-governmental organization reports). All three disciplines cited older material than anticipated.

Conclusions – The citation analysis, while time-consuming, provided new and important information about the use of the Library’s collections and the level of support the collections afford doctoral students in the three related disciplines of education, psychology and social welfare. This data has informed collections-related decisions including format purchases and fund allocations.

Keywords


academic librarianship; collection development; doctoral students; user behavior; citation analysis; education; psychology; social welfare; graduate students; collection assessment; budget allocation

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