STUDENT : Is this where I can get help with research?
LIBRARIAN : Yes, I can assist you.
STUDENT: Fantastic. You see, I’m doing my doctorate, and I’m running into problems with my dissertation research.
LIBRARIAN: What department, may I ask?
LIBRARIAN: Uh-huh. And what’s your dissertation topic?
STUDENT: I’m doing a study on how East African immigrants in England perceive democracy.
LIBRARIAN: Fascinating. Democracy is a trend theme in academic discourses these days.
LIBRARIAN: So why are you having difficulties?
STUDENT: The literature on concepts of democracy in immigrant communities is easy enough to locate, but I can’t find a lot on East African immigrant communities.
LIBRARIAN: That’s hard to believe. Where have you looked?
STUDENT: I’ve done searches in journal databases, and have also looked through our library’s records. There are some studies on East African immigrants from the United States, but none from the United Kingdom that I know of.
LIBRARIAN: What search terms are you using?
STUDENT: Oh, let’s see...”East African immigrants”... “East African immigrants England”... “immigrants and United Kingdom”... “East African immigrants and democracy”...
LIBRARIAN: Hmm...I’m doing a quick search right now and there are a few articles on democratisation in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. Oh, and in Mozambique. But these are studies on the countries themselves, not on immigrants from these nations.
LIBRARIAN: Oh, wait! Here’s one case study of democratic participation in a Somali immigrant community in New York.
LIBRARIAN: Yeah. You might have better luck in your searches if you use specific country names rather than looking for broader, regional studies. So, for example, search using the terms “democracy,” “Kenya immigrants,” and “England.”
STUDENT: Good idea. I’ll try that.
LIBRARIAN: I have another suggestion.
LIBRARIAN: Since the study of democracy and democratisation is still a new field, you may have better luck locating unpublished materials.
STUDENT: Why is that?
LIBRARIAN: Well, it usually takes about two years for articles to get published. Once a draft is submitted to a journal, the editors take an average of five to nine months to respond. Then research that is accepted for publication requires extensive revisions, a process that can take up to a year. So, research that is published is actually, well, already out of date.
STUDENT: I didn’t know that. But where can I find unpublished research?
LIBRARIAN: One good source is dissertations.
STUDENT: You mean, doctoral dissertations?
LIBRARIAN: Exactly. Graduate students tend to be on the cutting edge of research.
STUDENT: OK. So, how do I go about gaining access to such dissertations?
LIBRARIAN: Every university is required to post the completed dissertations of their graduate students. Usually you’ll find them linked on department websites.
STUDENT: But there are so many universities and departments...
LIBRARIAN: Start with the departments that the top academics in your field work at. If there’s a professor who publishes on your topic, it’s likely that they are mentoring graduate students who are also, uh, doing some great research.
LIBRARIAN: And, you know, there are some universities...like the London School of Economics...that are known to be strong in the field of democratisation. Browse their websites.
STUDENT: So, there’s no online repository of graduate research?
LIBRARIAN: Not really.
LIBRARIAN: Oh wait...now that I think of it, Oxford University has a database that I believe covers dissertations from across the European Union.
STUDENT: That would be very helpful!
LIBRARIAN: I’ll look around and see if there are any other handy resources. What’s the best way for me to reach you?
STUDENT: By email. My phone doesn’t work well.
LIBRARIAN: All right. Please write it down here on this piece of paper.
STUDENT: But I’ll be leaving tomorrow for a family trip and won’t be online for about a week. So if I don’t respond, that’s why.
LIBRARIAN: No problem. I’ll just send you some useful links, and you can check them out when you have time. And if you have any more questions, feel free to stop by or shoot me a message.
STUDENT: Thank you. You’ve been very kind.