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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

iSchool dissertations and rigor

I was following this discussion at UW's iSchool, and the previous week's, on what constitutes an information science dissertation, and I found the (posted) results of this panel rather interesting. they list a series of pragmatic suggestions from students, the first and most important being to "satisfy yourself first," followed by a list of expectations from professors. One striking expectation from the professors is that the dissertation be "rigorous." I suspect it is no coincidence that this expectation is followed by being able to justify a qualitative dissertation to a quantitative researcher and vice versa. While we can all agree that research should be rigorous, what actually constitutes rigor seems to vary, at times greatly, and not just along quant/qual lines. The faculty in the department at my school seem similar to UW: folks from different disciplines coming together due to common interests. This leads to different definitions of what counts as rigorous, sort of a panoply of perspectives from which to choose the best fit for your particular problem.

I'm wondering, though, as iSchools begin to graduate students, what will the field of information science consider rigorous? will it maintain this panoply approach? will certain approaches get canonized and others become discredited? will we generate new approaches distinct to iSchool-type problems? what are the potential ramifications if these methods get picked up and transfered to other fields? when and how might such new methods be considered rigorous, both in info sci and in other disciplines?

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