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Study examines how libraries help doctoral students

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A collaborative study between the libraries at Cornell University and Columbia University, two research libraries that make up the 2CUL partnership, aims to discover if the library can help doctoral students in the humanities finish their degrees.

Grants from the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation will support a user needs assessment to determine what academic libraries can do to help humanities doctoral students complete their degrees. Both 2CUL libraries are contributing to this effort.

The pilot project will involve focus groups with Cornell and Columbia’s humanities students in all stages of their PhD work, as well as recent graduates. Interviewers will then develop a questionnaire based on information from the focus groups and administer it to 20 to 25 students in three or four departments at each institution. 

After the analysis period, the institutions will recommend a course of action to address the findings. Possible steps forward would include partnerships with the graduate schools, writing centres and other campus entities at both institutions. Assessment will be completed by March 2011.

'It’s well documented in empirical studies that PhD students in the humanities have a more difficult time than their colleagues in the sciences and social sciences,' said Kornelia Tancheva, director of Olin and Uris libraries at Cornell and a co-principal investigator on the grant. 'Many factors — advising, financial aid, family life, community, job prospects — have been shown to contribute to this, and we want to examine the role the library might play in supporting their work.'