Sunday, September 30, 2007

Students' Perceptions

I teach a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate modules at the university in this semester. The modules include 'Basics of Databases Design and Evaluation in Social Sciences', 'Practical Computing', 'General References', and 'Statistics & Probability' for undergraduate students and 'Information Storage & Retrieval' and 'Basics of Computer Programming' for postgraduate students. At the first session of each module I asked my students to draw a simple mind map of their perceptions about what they already knew about the subject and what they expect to learn during this semester in the module. Most of them were somehow uncertain about what they might learn during the module. I'll ask them to draw another mind map at the end of the semester to compare these two which I hope would be considerably different.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Exploratory Journey During My Education Years (2)

This is the second part: When I began my PhD research, at the outset, I supposed I am going to be an information technologist. However, after three years I felt that I was a social scientist rather than a technologist! The main focus of my study transformed gradually. My focal view changed in two directions. First of all my perception about what I need to do in my PhD was changed and secondly my viewpoints about the nature of PhD was reformed as well. In terms of my perception about the nature of PhD I passed through a long way. At the early days of my study, just like many other new research students, I neither had a clear idea about the specific theme of my research nor about the nature of PhD. I spent some time to discover more about these two issues. In fact, while I was trying to design my research project I found out more about the real meaning of PhD as a process of learning. Now I can look back and see how my perception has been transformed towards a more productive way. When I managed to define my research scope, I started looking at my research in a different way. Over the second year I looked at it as an “exploratory journey”. It was a journey because I was moving from the initial stages towards new arenas. Moreover, it was exploratory because I have arrived at new areas and found new directions that I had no idea about them at the beginning. In the third year of my study I had a new vision. I imagined my PhD study as a process of drawing a “small picture” in a “big painting”. I believe each PhD student needs to draw a picture which can be fitted into a big drawing of his/her research field. The big painting consists of many tiny pictures which are interwoven together. Nevertheless, each tiny picture possesses the main features and elements of the whole big painting.
The process of drawing happens during the years of PhD research. At the beginning you need to find the best painting which suits your interests. However, it is not easy at all because the big painting is vague and conceptual. It gradually becomes clear just in your mind and only after carrying out a comprehensive literature review. Discovering the big pictures never happens over a night and requires some time. The time that you require to spend to discover it depends on many factors including your commitment to review the literature systematically and constantly, the nature of your field, and etc. In the next stage you need to locate a good gap somewhere in the big image. Then you have to carefully follow the style, colours, dimensions and other features of the big drawing. Eventually, your small picture will be integrated to the big painting. In fact, at the end your picture not only nicely fills the gap but also should make new space for the future people to draw new pictures. Now when I look back the way that I have passed I can see the main milestones of my journey. I am sure this is not the end of the journey and over the next years I will probably find new routes but I still do not know what these new routes might look like. I have to move on and find out.

An Exploratory Journey During My Education Years (1)

This is an informal writing that I had written it about two years ago and I did not published it anywhere. I just bumped into it while I was idly browsing my old files: "I did my first degree (BSc.) in agriculture and plant breeding. After graduation from agriculture school I initially decided to continue my education in one of the master courses in agriculture. Nonetheless, I always had a feeling that there must be another subject which can be more suitable to my personal interests and can give me more satisfaction. Meanwhile a friend of mine who was an undergraduate student in a library school was very enthusiastic about his course and he usually talked with me about what he was studying. When he learned about my hesitation on selecting the subject for my further study he encouraged me to apply for the master of library and information science. I was not sure how successful I can be in this filed because it was totally different with what I had studied before. Even so, I found the topic very interesting and I started reading some textbooks of library science. Eventually, I applied for the master of library and information science which is a two years course in my country Iran. After graduation in master degree I began working in an academic library as a reference librarian. Interestingly, my familiarity with life science in general and with agricultural topics in particular was very helpful for those users who were looking for information in the related fields. It was an enjoyable job for me and when my help was useful for a user in finding what s/he was looking for I felt a real sense of satisfaction. Moreover, I gradually became interested in using of computerized facilities in libraries and I felt there are many things that I need to learn about the implementation of the new technologies in libraries and I decided to continue my study in PhD and I applied for PhD at the University of Sheffield ...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Summer is over

Today was the first official day of autumn. The university has come back to normal now and everything seems fresh at the beginning of the new semester. I have a variety of modules to teach in undergraduate and master level. I'll try to use ICT in my teaching and my weblog is one the simplest way that would help me to enhance my teaching.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

After a Year

Today is 22nd of September which is a memorable day for me. I passed my PhD viva last year in this day. The following three papers were published just yesterday to give me a good reason to remind this day.

1. Mansourian, Y. and Ford, N. (2007). “Web searchers’ attributions of success and failure: an empirical study”. Journal of Documentation, Vol. 63 No. 5, pp. 659-679.

2. Mansourian, Y. and Ford, N. (2007). “Search persistence and failure on the Web: a “bounded rationality” and “satisficing” analysis. Journal of Documentation, Vol. 63 No. 5, pp. 680-701.

3. Mansourian, Y. and Madden, A. (2007). “Perceptions of the web as a search tool amongst researchers in biological sciences”. New Library World Vol. 108 No. 9/10, pp. 407-423.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


The journal of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice is seeking papers for future issues. The topics are: EBL application, qualitative or quantitative research, management and administration issues related to EBP, research tools (statistics, data collection methods, etc.), collaborative and interprofessional EBP, research education in library schools, evidence-based practices from other disciplines applicable to EBL, harnessing evidence to support new innovations, developing and applying evidence based tools, future prospects for the evidenced based information profession and maximizing the value and impact of our information services. All manuscripts are submitted online. Further information on submissions, can be found on the journal website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Academic Writing

I just came back home from a workshop that I did run for a group of faculty members of universities about how to enhance their writing skills in English to be more successful in publishing papers in academic journals. It was a great opportunity for me to discuss about academic writing with a number of fellow researchers. Most of them were more experienced than me in academia and I was lucky to be among them. My next semester begins on next Saturday and I am going to teach five days per week at two universities! This can be a bit tiring and I have already felt exhausted when I think about it! Although teaching is so rewarding, it may stop one from following his research interests as this is very energy consuming to deliver lectures and requires a lot of time to prepare lecture notes.
I wish I could be a PhD student once again to have enough time to explore a subject in great detail for a long time. If someone can sponsor me to do another PhD in an area in my research interests I am happy to do it again for another four years!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Workshop on Grounded Theory

I had a joint workshop for ILISA at the National Library of Iran on last Friday from 9:00 am to 5 pm. The workshop was about the basics of qualitative research in general and Grounded Theory in particular as an example of inductive qualitative methodology. Dr. Ebrahim Afshar and I were the teachers of the workshop and 57 academic librarians and LIS students from different parts of the country attended there.
We deliberately employed an unplanned method to teach the principles of qualitative research and Grounded Theory to run the workshop based on an intuitive development of the discussions with participants and it really worked. Dr. Afshar and I had not arranged the details of the topics and slides before the workshop. In fact, we employed an exploratory approach and tried to explain the pivotal aspects of Grounded Theory. I explained real examples of my PhD research to show how we can employ this methodology in practice.
During the last eight months I have had several workshops on different topics for different groups of people but this one was very different and I enjoyed of taking part in discussions and exploring the topics thoroughly.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Workshop on Academic Writing

I did run a workshop about essential skills to develop and publish research papers in academic journals for some of the faculty members from different universities. I developed the outline of the workshop mainly based on my personal experience in academic writing. We focused on different aspects of scholar writing including motivations and different kinds of writing, essential elements of a good paper and how to enhance the quality and acceptability of our paper. At the end we concluded that a well-written academic paper should possess 4C and it should be Clear, Coherent, Consistent and Concise.