One of the largest global university consortiums is the iSchools Organization, comprised of more than 120 universities that offer degree programs in the information science field. Each year, the iSchools Organization hosts the international iConference, bringing information professionals together to share their research and experiences. One part of the iConference is the doctoral colloquium—a priceless opportunity for graduate students to give and receive feedback on their dissertation projects.
I submitted my colloquium application in September 2022 for the March 2023 iConference to be held in Barcelona, Spain. At that time, I was also asked to indicate whether I was at the beginning, middle, or end of my doctoral program. (I am in the beginning stages of my program, but the iConference facilitators encourage applicants in all stages and welcome diversity in these workshops.) I received a letter of acceptance in mid-November 2022, and began planning my trip. A Research Support Award from MMU’s Graduate School assisted with the travel, accommodations, and registration expenses, which were substantial because I am currently living and working in California, USA.
A few weeks prior to the iConference, I submitted an updated Research Summary to be shared with the other colloquium participants. My summary was essentially a modified version of my literature review followed by my proposed methodological approach, questions for the peer reviewers, and a references list. I was placed in a small group with two other doctoral students, and we were provided with each other’s research summaries via email by the colloquium facilitator. This gave us time to read and prepare critical feedback for each other before meeting in person.
All three participants in my small group were using mixed methods approaches. One student was from Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, exploring the career information literacy and career information seeking behaviors of young people; the other was from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, examining authors’ perceptions of scholarly journal reputations and the computational measures that are used for ranking them. My project is examining the factors influencing the academic library’s decisions to design and deploy course-level resources. While our topics are very different, our approaches and the general organization of our dissertations are (or will be) very similar. My group members are further along in their dissertation process than I am, having already completed most of their studies and data gathering, and they are now focusing on drafting their findings. Their questions generated discussions about methodological validity and sufficiency, processes for coding interview responses to extract themes and software options for this, and strategies for nesting a qualitative study in a quantitative study (or vice versa).
In presenting my research, I received very helpful feedback about maintaining anonymity in my surveys and interview responses. Specifically, we discussed the Delphi method and ways I could use a pilot study as a first step in this process. We also discussed taking a smaller ‘randomized subgroup’ of a large number of responses to better preserve anonymity. During the second session of the dissertation colloquium, we were joined by senior faculty who served as short-term advisors for this activity. In my small group, the senior faculty were both from the United States, which was interesting. All participants and faculty mentors were very interested in my topic and had not seen institutional efforts comparable to the student data being collected and publicly reported by the university system where I currently teach (California State University). Most feedback and suggestions addressed the timing and targeting of my surveys and interviews to obtain the best possible responses from participants.
During the rest of the iConference, I was able to attend wonderful sessions on digital storytelling, science data collections and uses, technological sustainability in impoverished communities, and some diversity-related topics. I had conversations with many other students, faculty, and administrators in attendance, which gave me new contacts and friendships for future networking and collaborations. I could not have been more enriched and empowered by this experience, and I am anxious to participate in another colloquium further in my degree process.
Highly recommend: 10/10