Research Support Services for Modern Languages and Literatures: Columbia University Libraries Local Report

Beilin, Ian G.; Friedland, Nancy E.; Graham, Pamela M.; Mercurio, Jeremiah R.; Silva, Sócrates; Tofanelli, John L.; Witte, Sarah S.

This study seeks to understand the research practices of scholars in the fields of literature in modern languages, culture (including folklore, performance studies, and literary history) and writing studies. In coordination with twelve other institutions of higher education and the Modern Language Association (which sponsored the project), Columbia University Libraries partnered with Ithaka S+R, a not-for-profit educational research and consulting organization, to conduct this research. As part of Ithaka S+R’s Research and Teaching Practices stream of work, we conducted an in-depth, qualitative study of Columbia tenured and tenure-track faculty to learn more about their research interests, methods and outputs, along with their processes of discovering and accessing sources. Our local data was shared with Ithaka S+R and will inform a capstone report synthesizing findings across all institutions participating in the overall study. This humanities-based research joins the series of other disciplinary-focused reports that Ithaka S+R has coordinated.

We present our findings related to the following topics, in an order that tracks the life-cycle of research: scholars’ research focus and methodologies; sources and the search process; and research outputs. Throughout the report we refer to the roles of libraries and library staff in relation to these research practices. We hope Columbia’s local findings will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the needs of language and literature scholars on a broad scale while surfacing important issues that can inform how we support our faculty locally. In addition, this study also raises issues that may warrant continued assessment and monitoring as we strive to align our expertise and resources with the needs and priorities of faculty.


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January 9, 2020