PhD on Track – designing learning for PhD students

How to Cite

Austrheim, G., Rullestad, T., & Gullbekk, E. (2013). PhD on Track – designing learning for PhD students. Nordic Journal of Information Literacy in Higher Education, 5(1).


Three years ago we started the project "Information Management for Knowledge Creation". The project was initiated to create online information literacy modules for PhD students. The result of our endeavours, PhD on Track, will be launched in May 2013.

The initial stage of the project was mapping out the information behaviour of PhD students, as well as what services they require from the library through a literature review and a focus group study. The findings of these inquiries formed the knowledge base from which we developed our information literacy modules.

Our paper will focus on the interaction between content production and user testing when creating PhD on Track.


User testing has been employed throughout the production stage. We have tested navigation and organisation of the web site, content and usability. The project team have conducted expert testing.


The results from our user testing have played an important part in decisions concerning content production. Our working hypothesis was that the PhD students would want an encyclopaedic website, a place to quickly find answers. However, the user tests revealed that PhD students understood and expected the website to be learning modules.


The PhD students in the tests agreed that a site such as this would be useful, especially to new PhD students. They also liked the design, but had some qualms with the level of information. They preferred shorter text, but with more depth. The students would likewise have preferred more practical examples, more illustrations and more discipline specific information.

The current content of PhD on Track reflects the feedback from the user testing. We have retained initial ideas such as one section for reviewing and discovering research literature and one section for publishing PhD research work. In addition, we have included more practical examples to indicate efficient workflows or relevant actions in context. Illustrations proved a challenge for the production team. How do you illustrate copyright or the process of getting published?

The project team sees user testing as an essential part of content development. Though PhD on Track certainly mirrors the research support efforts of the academic libraries behind it, by involving the users throughout the production we have tried to make sure it is a highly relevant and qualitatively sound resource for the PhD students.

"Information Management for Knowledge Creation" is a collaborative project ran by the libraries at the Bergen University College, the Norwegian School of Economics, and at the Universities of Bergen, Oslo and Aalborg. The project is funded by the Norwegian National Library.

Copyright (c) 2013 Gunhild Austrheim, Tove Rullestad, Eystein Gullbekk

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