A qualitative investigation of the digital literacy practices of doctoral students

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Diane Louise Bell http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8066-5317


Academic libraries are currently part of a landscape where there is a rapid growth of digital technologies and electronic resources and they have responded to this by developing their research services. Some of the most specialised and complex research in higher education is conducted by doctoral students and the effective use of digital tools and skills is often crucial to their research workflow and success. The need for digital literacy has been further emphasised during the global pandemic of 2020-21 which has required the maximisation of online working and digital skills to ensure the continuation of education, services and research productivity. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative research study in a UK university exploring factors influencing differences in the digital literacy skills of doctoral students. The literature included has been updated as digital skills and technologies are a constantly changing area of research.


Due the complex nature of doctoral research, it was difficult to draw definite conclusions about the many factors which influence the digital literacy practices of research students. Students interviewed in the study discussed their approaches to and understanding of information, digital and media literacy (Jisc, 2016) but the influence of demographic factors such as age, discipline and gender could not easily be evaluated.  All students in the study appeared to be under time pressure and required a high level of organisation and this was assisted by digital skills and proficiency and access to robust hardware and software. They believed they were largely self-taught and some required appropriate training at the point of need to increase their research productivity. This paper will explore how evidence-based practice and engagement may be used to understand the digital practices of doctoral students and to inform the development of research services within academic libraries. 

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How to Cite
BELL, Diane Louise. A qualitative investigation of the digital literacy practices of doctoral students. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 15, n. 3, p. 82-99, dec. 2021. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL/article/view/PRA-V15-I3-5>. Date accessed: 14 aug. 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.11645/15.3.2829.
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)