Library Intervention Strategies for Doctoral Students in the Humanities

Humanities students have longer mean times to completing their doctoral degrees than students in other disciplines, according to a recent National Science Foundation study. Fewer than half of all humanities doctoral students finish their Ph.D.s within 10 years.  Our study aims to discover if research libraries can do something to help these students to completion.

Project goals:

  • Conduct a joint user needs study of graduate students in the humanities at Cornell and Columbia
  • Determine how the kinds of services, collections, and support our libraries provide impact attrition and completion rates for  Ph.D. students in the humanities
  • Propose library intervention strategies that will positively address the high attrition rate and long Ph.D. completion time.

Research methods:
The research teams will conduct focus groups with humanities students at Cornell and Columbia in all stages of their Ph.D. work, as well as recent graduates. They will also conduct 20 to 25 interviews at each institution with current students and recent graduates. Columbia’s team is focusing on Ph. D. candidates in the departments of English, History and Religion; Cornell’s on the Classics, English, History, and Medieval Studies doctoral programs.

The teams will analyze data from their interviews and focus groups, report their findings, and recommend a course of action. The assessment will be complete by March 2011.

The project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia, the Graduate School at Cornell, and the libraries at Columbia and Cornell.


For more information about the study, please contact one of the principal investigators: Kornelia Tancheva (Cornell University) or Damon Jaggars (Columbia University).

Related press releases:
Columbia University Library News: 2CUL Receives Funding to Examine Libraries' Role in Supporting Humanities Ph.D. Students(2/24/2010)
Cornell Chronicle :Study to see how libraries can help humanities Ph.D. students finish degrees(2/24/2010)