Preparing for doing research

I had a meeting with my 3 supervisors today to discuss how to proceed with my research while waiting for my protocol to be approved.

One of the first steps is to notify NSD, the Norwegian Centre for Research Data. Anyone who collects personal data (information about individuals) has to fill out an electronic form and send it to NSD for approval. It sounds easy, right? Well…

It actually takes longer than you’d think, so be sure to set aside several hours to this task when you start your research. NSD asks difficult questions, like how your respondents will be able to remove their data if they suddenly decide to no longer take part in the study. I’ll also have to upload the survey I’ll be using (which I haven’t made yet!), as well as the letter I’ll be sending to my respondents informing them about how their personal data will be stored (safely) and deleted (when the data is analyzed).

It’s a great system and a necessary part of any research project involving personal data, assuring participants that there’s no risk for them in being part of the study.

The next steps will be:

  • to create a Data Management Plan
  • to develop (and validate) a survey to measure the students’ abilities to critically evaluate and properly document information sources. (This is the fun part!)

To be continued…

(BTW – today is “sun day” in Tromsø, the day the sun reappears after being below the horizon for two months – a day that makes me feel like anything is possible. 🙂 )

So, what exactly is information literacy anyway?

When I tell people that I’m doing a PhD in information literacy, they stare at me with their heads tipped to the side and their eyebrows scrunched – the universal sign for “huh?

Let me explain. Information literacy (IL) has several different definitions, which makes things a little confusing at times. The definition in my job announcement was “IL encompasses the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to be able to make expedient and appropriate use of information sources in order to answer questions, solve problems and learn.”

So, what kind of skills and knowledge are we actually talking about here? In higher education, we librarians  try to teach our students  how to search for and find reliable sources of information, and to use these sources in the correct way when they write. An information literate person, in other words, has the ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use information.

Locating information doesn’t mean just Googling everything. We teach our students to search in quality-controlled databases, but if you don’t have access to those, try Google Scholar – there you’ll find more reliable sources than in regular Google.

Evaluating information is important, especially now, when it can be hard to see the difference between what’s  real and what’s fake. Look for sources that are based on sound research. There are lots of guides explaining how to critically evaluate sources, like this one from UC Santa Cruz. Think critically, and don’t believe everything you read, or everything that your friends link to on FaceBook. (And don’t share dubious FaceBook-posts – fake stories spread much faster than the truth!)

Using sources correctly when writing is also an important skill. Students who forget to cite their sources can be accused of plagiarism. We teach students how to cite sources in the text and how to write reference lists in their papers. It’s a good rule for everyone – if you quote someone, or use someone’s ideas, photos, music, etc., give them credit for it!

So, I’m going to do research which can inform our teaching of IL in order to ensure the best possible learning outcomes. More to follow…

Why did I have to apply now?

Many have asked me why I had to apply for admission to a faculty when I’d already been hired as a research fellow. Why couldn’t I just start my research when I began here in October?

UiT has realized that the former 10-page project descriptions, which previously were the formal application to PhD programs, often had to be significantly changed after the research fellow began. One reason for this is because the project also has to be something that the supervisors are interested in. They’ve now changed the system so that they accept the most qualified candidate, and then the research project is planned together with supervisors, as a team.

This planning has been quite a process, and the past three months have been challenging. Trying to create a feasible research project, based on the description in the job announcement, was hard! I felt like I didn’t know enough about the research process, and all the tests that need to be done in order to just make and conduct a survey, e.g.

Luckily I got great help from my supervisors, and together we worked out a plan that everyone is satisfied with. 🙂 It’s going to be a lot of hard work the next four years, so wish me luck!

Submitted my research protocol today!

I finally sent my formal application to the PhD Program at the Faculty of Health Sciences at UiT today! Yay!! I began as a research fellow in October 2018, and have used my first three months here in Tromsø, in close collaboration with my supervisors, to plan the PhD research that I (we) will be doing for the next four years.

If all goes as planned, I’ll be the first in Norway with a PhD in information literacy. 🙂

I have the best supervisors imaginable:

  • Tove I. Dahl is my main supervisor, and is a professor of educational psychology. Tove grew up in the US! Here’s a post from her blog today.
  • Torstein LĂĄg is a co-supervisor, and is a senior academic librarian at the University Library, with psychology as his discipline. We’d met several times in past years at library conferences in Europe, where we often presented research on similar topics. And now we’re finally working together!
  • Mariann Solberg is my other co-supervisor, and is a professor of educational philosophy. We’re also neighbors.


I’ll be describing my research, as well as the ups and downs of being a research fellow, in this blog.

But right now it’s TIFF-time here (Tromsø International Film Festival), so I’m on my way to a movie! More to come tomorrow…