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The University of Texas at Austin

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

The Investigator

This quarterly series investigates the field of volunteerism, through promoting academic research and providing a bridge from academic research to the hands of practitioners. The first issue was published October 2004, with issues to follow in January, April, and July 2005.

To promote academic research, the series leads the field of volunteerism research by introducing new data sets, exploring characteristics of volunteers, and suggesting fruitful research agendas. The first issue, Data Sets: A Research Primer details new and frequently used data sets on volunteerism. This issue is a research starter for a researcher new to the field of volunteerism such as graduate students or researchers in fields less familiar with volunteerism. These data sets are the empirical foundation for understanding volunteerism and the impact of volunteering.

The series hopes to open the door for beginning researchers or cross-discipline researchers to seriously consider volunteerism for in-depth analysis. The Investigator series makes the area of volunteerism more attractive by collecting current information about volunteering, identifying research agendas, and providing direction for further inquiry. The Investigator series plans to cross all disciplines, such as economics, sociology, and political science, and draw each respective researcher to the field. In time we also hope to cross international boundaries with information and data sets from other countries.

Research matters for the fields of volunteerism and volunteer administration because, to a large extent, the world of volunteer administration has grown up in the community. Our books and resources, while very useful, are generally built upon practice wisdom. While this practice may make the resources currently in the field user-friendly and effective for those managing programs, they are often not considered the caliber of material that colleges and universities seek when designing for-credit curriculum. Likewise, while we may feel "certain" that some volunteer management practices are more effective than others, there are still very few studies that verify these assertions.

In an effort to build a field of professional practice and to gain university recognition for volunteerism and volunteer administration, the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service wants to encourage researchers to take the field of volunteerism seriously. Quality research studies are one way to build a respected field of professional practice. The Investigator series has emerged in part from this desire. Each issue of this quarterly publication is designed to capture key information and identify resources to encourage students and academicians to study the field.

Supportive documentation for the Investigator series appears on both on the ServiceLeader web site and here on the RGK Center web site. The material appearing on the ServiceLeader site is focused on the concerns of the practitioner, the information on the RGKCenter site is intended for researchers and academics. You are encouraged to review all of the information.