And then there were five…

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As countless case studies have shown (trust us – we’ve read them all), building an institutional repository is no easy feat. Being full-time graduate students with jobs, coursework, and personal lives AND building an IR is even less simple. As I’m sure many of our fellow students can attest, capstone projects are not without their challenges, and we’ve been facing our fair share.

You’ve already been privy to our struggles with taming the inventory, so I won’t rehash that here. Megan gave you a glimpse into our process for writing the literature review last week; in reality, it turned into a pretty giant task. Because there is such a glut of research available about institutional repositories, one of our major challenges was knowing when to stop reading and start writing. Megan, Dermot and I had a limit – or maybe let’s call it a target – of 1,500 words each. After diving into the literature, which could actually fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, we each ended up with about twice that. When we met up to discuss our individual pieces, our sweet little lit review had ballooned to 10,000 words and 100 sources!

We started with a target of about 4,000 words and about 60 sources. When next we met, our sweet little lit review had ballooned to 10,000 words and 100 sources!

I put my journalism experience to good work and smushed, edited, hacked, gutted and slashed it down to 5,000 words, and for now that’s where we’re sticking. In my mind, the lit review was the first major hurdle for us to clear as a group. Despite a few obstacles, we’ve finally got a good, reasonably sized first draft in the bag!

Another challenge our group is facing involves copyright and intellectual property. Essentially it is as yet unclear whether the school has the legal right to ingest all the previous theses and capstone projects into the repository without written permission from each author. We are in the midst of some major sleuthing in the hopes of avoiding having to contact every single alumnus of the school individually. There are 417 projects in our inventory right now, representing close to 500 alumni – that’s a mountain of work none of us want to climb.

But our biggest challenge so far has been the unexpected departure of one of our members. Micheál left the group without warning last week, having arranged to complete an individual thesis instead. His leaving left us scrambling a bit to redistribute the workload and restructure the group. But we pulled together as a team and during one marathon meeting we were able to clear several more hurdles, including our ethics exemption form, our scoping document and a solid first draft of our interview schedule and follow-up questionnaire.

I feel lucky every day to be part of such an incredible team of creative, talented, intelligent, motivated and loyal people. Despite all the challenges we’ve faced so far – and all the ones we’ve yet to face – we haven’t stopped making progress, and we haven’t lost our spirit. Tune in next week to see if that’s still true …

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