In further praise of dissertations

Originally published on The Occasional Informationist blog, 27 April 2020

In a blog post of five years ago, I noted the academic quality and professional relevance of the dissertations produced by CityLIS Masters students, and the wide range of topics and approaches they include.

Since then we have developed a series of virtual collections of dissertations in particular subject areas: art and artists, history, science and healthcare, and theory and philosophy.

We encourage CityLIS students to make their dissertations more widely available in the Humanities Commons open access repository, where the CityLIS collection is rapidly growing.

Our recently submitted dissertations have been so varied in subject, as well as high in quality, that I thought it worth drawing attention to some of those which are available in Humanities Commons; if only as a rebuff to anyone who may thank that dissertations in the LIS area may be limited in scope and in imagination.

At the theoretical and conceptual end, we can pick out Alex Bell’s study of the ways in which colour can convey, and indeed can be, information, and Rachel Cummings analysis of the documentation of fashion. Rachel is taking a document theory approach to fashion further in her PhD research.

Information behaviour is always a popular topic for CityLIS dissertations, and a very nice example is Kelly Anyfantaki’s study of the ‘serious leisure’ information practices of book collectors.

Information history, another perennially popular topic is represented by Petar Nikolov’s analysis of the development of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping as an information reosurce, and by David Baker’s study of the context and significance of the reforms to the Royal Library at Windsor Castle under Prince Albert.

Being believers in the aphorism that there is nothing so practical as a good theory, we would always say that conceptual, philosophical, and historical dissertations have an important place in LIS education. But they are balanced by dissertations done in, or for, a work setting, or taking a case study approach, with immediate impact in practice, and several examples of these feature among recent CityLIS studies. They include Olu Alabi’s case study of a social prescription hub in a London public library, and Colette Townend’s analysis of the impact of Section 28 and Black History Month on public libraries. In an example of the immediate impact of dissertation research, Sarah Crompton’s research forms the basis for a subject guide to the music and song collection of the Marx Memorial Library.

We hope by encouraging to CityLIS students to submit their dissertations to Humanities Commons, and by publicising them through professional social media, their value to professional practice, as well as to the knowledge base of the discipline, may be maximised. And also we hope to encourage more students to join CityLIS, and contribute their own dissertations.

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