Digital research practices: the real user experience

Introducing PhD profiles

“Finding information is crucial to anyone studying at, or working at a university…”

Discovering and navigating digital information is part of every researcher’s work. But what is that user experience and how can it be improved? Taylor & Francis is working with Loughborough University’s Library, Graduate School, and their Senior Lecturer in Publishing to examine users’ experience in the digital library, publishing the findings and sharing them widely with the academic, library and publishing community.

A six month long project, Digital research practices: the real user experience, involves ten PhD researchers from a wide range of disciplines (and at different stages in their PhD completion), who will be offering a ‘bird’s eye view’ of how they find and gather information online. Over the course of the project, we’ll be asking them to tell us about their experiences of being a researcher, why they decided to become involved in the project and what they’re hoping to get out of it, and what advice they’d give someone about to embark on a career in research. Our PhD profiles begin with Charlotte Jais.

Digital Research PracticesHi Charlotte, what’s your research discipline and topic?
Design – Applying Human Factors and Ergonomic Principles to the Design of Dementia Care Homes.

What is the main focus of your research?
Developing design personas (profiles of archetypal users) to enable those involved in the design of dementia care homes to design around the needs of people with dementia. This will result in the development of care homes which are more equipped to meet the needs of people with dementia.

What was your route to becoming a researcher?
I studied psychology at undergraduate level at Sheffield Hallam University, and then after taking a year out to work, I enrolled on the MRes Psychology course at Loughborough University. While I’d always had a keen interest in research, it was during my MRes degree that I decided I wanted to pursue research as a potential career option, due to its strong emphasis in the course. I was very interested in undertaking a PhD in the Design School, as this wasn’t an area I had previously worked in, and I liked the idea of doing research in a field which has clear real-world applications.

What do you hope to achieve with your research?
I hope to be able to provide designers with a tool that they can use when designing new dementia care homes, or further developing existing ones.

What do you hope to do next after completing this research?
I hope to find a position as a Research Assistant, as I really enjoy being involved in research. Ideally I would also like to be able to undertake some teaching work as well, as this is something else that I enjoy.

Why did you want to be involved in this project?
Finding information is crucial to anyone studying at, or working at a university, so I thought it was a really important and interesting project. I also thought it would be useful to be able to reflect on information seeking and information management practices on a more personal level, to enable me to further develop these skills.

What do you hope to learn from taking part?
I hope to be able to learn more about how I find information and what I do with the information that I find, so that I can further develop my information seeking and management skills.

What are the three most useful online tools or websites you use for your research?
Google Scholar, Save to Mendeley Plug-in for Google Chrome, Science Direct.

“…searching for information can be time consuming if you have several pages of search results to work through…”

What do you find most challenging about research?
Trying to find the information that you need can be one of the most challenging things. It can be quite difficult sometimes to know where to start looking (although this does get easier as you learn more about the topic you’re researching) and searching for information can be time consuming if you have several pages of search results to work through!

What one thing would improve your life as a researcher?
Having open access to every journal would make things much easier as then you’d always be sure that you’d be able to access an article if you needed to; it can be quite frustrating if you’ve been searching for a while and then a really relevant looking article pops up but you don’t have access to it.

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on a research project or career?
Make sure you have a very strong interest in what you’re researching, and make sure you know why you’ve chosen to conduct research in that particular area. You need to be able to devote a lot of time and effort to a research project or career and it is much easier to do this if you’re passionate about what you’re researching, as you’re more likely to enjoy conducting research and to want to find out more about the topic!

Find out more about Digital research practices: the real user experience.