Librarian Instruction on Methods for Evidence Synthesis: An Ethnographic Study
Background: Academic health librarians play crucial roles in training new and future evidence synthesis (ES) researchers through individual support and group instruction on comprehensive searching and other aspects of ES methods. While the role and impact of information specialists as collaborators and authors on reviews has been well documented, we know little about how librarians use and leverage technology and methods guidance to build capacity for ES research through methods instruction.
Objectives: This research adds to our understanding of how academic librarians build capacity for ES research through online instruction to groups and individual learners.
Methods: Using ethnographic methods for online data collection, including focus groups, observations of research consultations, and interviews, this study is framed by a sociomaterialist perspective to unpack the black box of ES methods instruction provided by librarians in virtual environments. The resulting qualitative data was analysed using content analysis and constant comparison approaches, informed by the theoretical lens of Actor-Network Theory.
Results: Assemblages of custom-made and re-purposed instructional resources, such as video tutorials, templates, handouts, and online guides, as well as ES methods guidance documents and review-related technologies mediate the instructional practices of librarians supporting ES methods. In response to academic and methodological expectations, librarians calibrate their teaching to balance technical and conceptual learning objectives related to the interconnected steps for conducting ES projects, from research question formulation and information retrieval to data management, analysis, and reporting. Librarians rely on the affordances of various technologies to mediate online ES methods instruction, both for delivering the training and as applied to the methods for completing reviews.
Conclusions: Contributing to capacity building in ES requires academic librarians to maintain high levels of expertise in searching and other components of ES research as well as competence in communicating those methods skills to learners and others who are new to synthesis research.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: The learners who access ES methods support from academic health librarians were included as research subjects during data collection through observation of research consultations. The primary investigator is an academic health librarian with extensive experience teaching ES methods.