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The Question of the Question: Research Data Inquiries in Relation to Library Services


New attention to the power of data in research has brought new kinds of data questions to the university research library. This study seeks to understand the character of research data questions in order to help research libraries develop the structures, technologies, collections, and professional skills needed to meet the needs of the research communities. It employs two original metrics to analyze 42 cases: The Data Question Typology, which allows for the organization of data questions into categories based on researcher objectives, and the Modified READ Scale for Data Questions (MRSD), which is used to record the magnitude of difficulty presented by each case. It finds that data questions differ significantly across academic fields and that successful research assistance often requires partnerships between subject specialists librarians and technological or computational experts. It concludes with a recommendation on how research libraries can facilitate a collaborative process and workflow for handling a diversity of data questions from across the university.

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