Reinventing Research? Information Practices in the Humanities :
This report is the second in a series of three commissioned by the Research Information Network (RIN), each looking at information practices in a specific discipline (life sciences, humanities and physical sciences). The aim is to understand how researchers within a range of disciplines find and use information, and in particular how that has changed with the introduction of new technologies.
Humanities scholars are often perceived in very traditional terms: spending a lot of time working on their own and collaborating only informally through highly-dispersed networks. Unlike most scientists, they have no long tradition of working in formal, close-knit and collaborative research groups. Humanities scholars have also sometimes been presented as ‘depth’ rather than ‘breadth’ researchers, preferring to spend significant amounts of time with a few items, rather than working across a broader frame. In terms of information sources, text and images held in archives and libraries tend to dominate, with less of an association with new web-based technologies (although this is changing with the increasing visibility of digital humanities).
This report suggests that such perceptions may be out of date. In each of our case studies we found researchers working with new tools and technologies, in increasingly collaborative environments, and both producing and using information resources in diverse ways. There is a richness and variety within humanities information practices which must be recognised and understood if we are to provide the right kind of support for researchers.