Ithaka S+R Reports Changing Research Practices Among Historians

How have digital resources affected the research practices of historians? What research services do historians need but can’t find? Ithaka S+R recently attempted to find answers to such questions and published a report that provides a deep analysis of the current research practices of historians, and current models for research services emerging on campuses in the United States. Based upon interviews with archivists, historians, and librarians, the Ithaka survey found that “the underlying research methods of many historians remain fairly recognizable even with the introduction of new tools and technologies, but the day to day research practices of all historians have changed fundamentally.”

For quick look at the survey’s main findings, begin with the executive summary, which lists a series of recommendations for improved information services for libraries and archives, history departments, and scholarly societies. Among the recommendations:

  • Libraries and archives need to develop “new research support models that address historians’ related needs for expertise at a sub-disciplinary level and for assistance in discovering and accessing primary source materials.”
  • For history departments to develop more graduate courses “in how to develop a dissertation proposal recognizing resource constraints, in the adoption and use of research practices and methods, in the use of non-textual sources, and in the use of new forms of scholarly expression.”
  • Scholarly societies should track the changing research practices of historians in order to identify support needs. In addition, they must try to engage professionally with librarians and archivists to address these needs.

Readers wishing to learn more about this report and to participate in a discussion of the report’s findings will be happy to know that the 2013 annual meeting features a roundtable on the Ithaka report. The roundtable, on Saturday, January 5, 2013, 9:00–11:00 a.m., in the Rhythms Ballroom 2 of the Sheraton New Orleans, will provide an overview of the report along with a discussion between historians and librarians about the recommendations contained in the report and about the future of historical research methods. 

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