Librarians have historically been responsible for the organization and management of the stores of human knowledge, and for ensuring information literacy among researchers. In recent years, however, librarians have become disintermediated (Boyd-Byrnes & Rosenthal, 2005) or, removed from, researchers and the research process for a variety of reasons. The problem that was addressed in this study is that librarians do not have sufficient information about the research practices and preferences of doctoral students enrolled in distance programs. The purpose of this study was to gain information about the differences in research behaviors and preferences among doctoral students in distance and residential programs. The researcher conducted a qualitative case study using a grounded theory approach. This investigation employed non-probability sampling strategies, convenience and purposive, to identify participants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty doctoral students; 10 enrolled in a distance program, and 10 enrolled in a residential program. All participants were either actively engaged in gathering material for, or had recently completed, their dissertation literature reviews. In order to arrange equal interview format options for all student-participants, they were allowed to choose whether to be interviewed via phone, via a communications software package called Skype, or utilizing an Internet chat facility called TappedIn. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using HyperResearch software. The current research showed that distance continues to distinguish the research experience for doctoral distance students despite the ease of access to electronic research resources. The simple fact of their separation from the physical campus, from colleagues and faculty while conducting literature reviews causes distance students to feel isolated and to long for academic amenities unavailable to them. While residential students eschew the campus library, preferring to conduct research from the convenience of their homes, distance students express longing for the traditional brick and mortar facility. Findings also revealed that distance students communicate a lower level of self-confidence about their research skills than residential students, despite the fact that their interviews communicated no differences in familiarity with the various available research tools between the two groups.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Distance education; Information behavior; Doctoral students; Information retrieval -- Research; Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational technology.

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Garcia, Cara