Comprehensive Exams Statement

Research Statement for Comprehensive Exams

Coursework and research projects

Through the required coursework, I established a foundation of knowledge of the history and fundamental theories of LIS, as well as pedagogy and research methods. I also completed specialized coursework in user experience and social informatics, and independent studies of the role of LIS publications, the usability and user experience assessment of an antibiotic visualization medical diagnostic tool, and queering of health information seeking behavior. These courses introduced me to theories and research designs that will inform my dissertation.  

In my coursework, I developed several projects and conducted multiple literature reviews. These included running a user experience project, conducting and coding interviews, evaluating online medical retrieval, performing text and sentiment analysis, creating bibliographic and theoretical retrospectives, drafting a mock IRB proposal, and teaching a mock session for doctoral students. These assignments introduced me to research methods that I will employ during my dissertation.

Research focus and research projects conducted in the doctoral program

During the doctoral program, I was able to work on a variety of research projects. These included being the Data Fellow for the Research Data Management Librarian Academy (RDMLA) with Dr. Rong Tang; a Graduate Assistant for a Library and Information Science Review retrospective with Dr. Candy Schwartz;  the Graduate Assistant for the Measuring Library Broadband Networks for the National Digital Platform project with Dr. Colin Rhinesmith; the Research Associate for the Harvard Data Science Review with Dr. Xiao-Li Meng at Harvard University; and a Fellow in the LIS Education and Data Science for the National Digital Platform (LEADS-4-NDP) with Dr. Jane Greenberg at Drexel University. These projects helped me explore concepts in data management, data science, history of library and information science, artificial intelligence, scholarly publishing, and social informatics.  

I also was the teaching assistant for two courses: User Instruction with Dr. Rebecca Davis and Information Services for Diverse Users with Dr. Rachel Williams. These teaching assistantships provided me with the knowledge of user needs as well as gave me experience working in instructional roles with graduate students. Additionally, I currently teach a class in digital publishing at Emerson College, as well as work as a research librarian at Tufts University. These positions have created a firm foundation for future teaching on the university level, as well as an understanding of user needs related to information seeking. Also in my occupational experience during doctoral coursework, I served as a graduate assistant in residence life at Simmons University. This role provided an intimate immersion into the issues undergraduate students face, many of which relate to mental health and LGBTQ+ issues, as well as students’ experiences with information seeking. 

During my coursework, I presented my research through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and white papers. My publications included, but were not limited to: “Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Apps for Mental Healthcare: A Social Informatics Perspective” in Aslib Journal of Information Management; “Digital liaisons: Connecting diverse voices to support an ethical and sustainable information future in digital libraries” in Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, co-authored with Ekatarina Grguric, Nushrat Khan, Tamarack Hockin, and Virginia Dressler; and “Participatory Development of an Open Source Broadband Measurement Platform for Public Libraries” in Information in Contemporary Society, iConference 2019, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, with Colin Rhinesmith, Chris Ritzo, Georgia Bullen, and James Werle. I presented my research at ASIS&T, Code4Lib, and ITS, as well as in local businesses and universities. I plan to continue to publish and present my work throughout the dissertation process, as I’ve found people are interested in this research topic and my work benefits from their feedback. 

Throughout these experiences, I was able to experiment with methods and data collection techniques, as well as practical knowledge, that I will utilize in my dissertation research. 

Dissertation interests

While my doctoral coursework and projects focused on several topics, my work in Dr. Rhinesmith’s social informatics course, combined with a series of personal experiences, changed my research focus to the health information seeking behaviors of LGBTQ+ individuals. Through building relationships with fellow LGBTQ+ people, including many who are in recovery from substance abuse and comorbid conditions, I noticed that people seek information about their identities as well as their mental health, often in combination and through similar information channels. During this information seeking, individuals encounter intersecting stigma about mental health, substance abuse, and LGBTQ+ identities. With this in mind, I began to explore health information seeking behaviors through a queer theory perspective. 

Based on my investigations thus far, I have decided to focus my dissertation research on “Health information seeking behaviors of sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals with substance use concerns.” Mental health issues, particularly those linked to substance use, as well as SGM identities carry stigma and can lead to discrimination, which leads to internalized shame. With this in mind, I am particularly interested in the impact shame has on people’s information seeking. My dissertation research will utilize ethnographic methods to identify searchers’ information needs and how they engage with information channels. Several theoretical frameworks will be employed, including Dervin’s Sense-Making methodology, Chatman’s theory of information poverty, Wilson’s model of information behavior, borrowed theory, grounded theory, queer theory, and crip theory. My dissertation research will gather data collected from surveys, interviews, and diary studies, which will be analyzed using a mixed methods approach. I plan on gathering participants from at least three sites: an LGBTQ+ affirming meeting space that currently hosts daily 12-step groups though Zoom, an entirely online community focused on LGBTQ+ experiences (though not always substance issues), and an entirely online community that focuses on recovery from substance abuse (though not always LGBTQ+ experiences). I am myself an active member in all three communities, which places me in a unique capacity that is appropriate for ethnographic research. Permission for working with research participants will be obtained through Simmons IRB as well as moderators of the groups, and research participants’ input will be utilized throughout the project and in the final report. I have already received interest in this research from potential participants, as well as people working in library and information science, social work, pastoral care, and other fields. 

My research questions include:

  1. What are the preferred channels of information for SGM individuals for health information?
  2. What are the preferred channels of information for individuals seeking information about substance use/abuse?
  3. How do these channels vary based on the subject matter?
  4. How do searchers evaluate the information they locate?
  5. How and in what ways does overlapping shame/stigma related to SGM issues and mental illness impact these behaviors?

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