Findings from a Study of Duke Researchers

The Medical Center Library & Archives has held focus groups in the past 1.5 years to explore the research needs of early-career researchers. 

What have we learned at this point?

We conducted four focus groups in which we had a total of 12 participants: 2 graduate students, 5 postdocs, and 5 faculty. The overarching theory we developed was that participants were unaware of or didn't understand many tools, services, and resources available to them through the University and/or Library. 

In support of the larger theory above, participants reported that:

  • Finding collaborators was difficult
  • Navigating the research process and structure was confusing
  • Navigating the grant lifecycle was complex
  • Finding and obtaining help at Duke was challenging
  • Training was of interest, especially statistical
  • Close colleagues were relied upon for guidance and answers
  • Time and desire was lacking for finding contact information, articles, forms, etc. 
  • Identifying good mentors was crucial to navigating Duke and their career

How do our results factor into CTSA and what is happening at Duke?

The largest portion of the funding for the CTSA (Clinical and Translational Science Awards) at Duke will be directed towards funding infrastructure to support research.  In particular, two projects - MyResearchHome@Duke and MyResearchTeam@Duke - have the potential to provide solutions to many of the issues we heard participants describe.  MyResearchHome@Duke will be designed as a single portal that all research faculty and staff can use to find resources and answers to questions they have about the research process at Duke.  MyResearchTeam@Duke will provide support to researchers who currently lack adequate departmental support to navigate the research process or who need assistance with basic research design, statistical methods, and management of projects.

How does what we learned affect the Library?

The Library can provide services and resources designed to raise awareness and offer guidance to help early career researchers understand what is available to them.  There are institutional efforts to provide tools to help researchers find resources and services at Duke from the CTSA grant.  We should participate in these larger long-term efforts, while at the same time providing more immediate, customized services and resources to meet these needs.  Possible immediate services include:

  • Targeted training and promotion of Library services and resources for particular groups like postdocs
  • Development of new strategies for communication and marketing, designed for particular groups or needs
  • Promotion and development of resources we already have like Scholars@Duke, Web of Science, Scopus, LibGuides on relevant topics, etc.

What questions still exist?

  • What (if any) methods and formats of communication are preferred and effective?
    We heard in a variety of ways and from multiple people that they desired more or better communication, but the preferred format and methods seemed to differ or be unknown to individuals.  Is there any ideal way to reach out to people and increase awareness?

  • How do we change how people view the Library?  Should we?
    People typically associate the Library with access to books and journals, but are less likely to think of us when they need help searching the literature, organizing their information, etc.

If you have questions or comments about this study, please email the Library at

Special thanks for the support and collaboration from the Duke Office of Clinical Research and the Duke Office of Research Informatics.