Purpose – By tracking the information-seeking and reading patterns of science, technology, medical
and social science faculty members from 1977 to the present, this paper seeks to examine how faculty
members locate, obtain, read, and use scholarly articles and how this has changed with the widespread
availability of electronic journals and journal alternatives.
Design/methodology/approach – Data were gathered using questionnaire surveys of university
faculty and other researchers periodically since 1977. Many questions used the critical incident of the last
article reading to allow analysis of the characteristics of readings in addition to characteristics of readers.
Findings – The paper finds that the average number of readings per year per science faculty member
continues to increase, while the average time spent per reading is decreasing. Electronic articles now
account for the majority of readings, though most readings are still printed on paper for final reading.
Scientists report reading a higher proportion of older articles from a wider range of journal titles and
more articles from library e-collections. Articles are read for many purposes and readings are valuable
to those purposes.
Originality/value – The paper draws on data collected in a consistent way over 30 years. It provides
a unique look at how electronic journals and other developments have influenced changes in reading
behavior over three decades. The use of critical incidence provides evidence of the value of reading in
addition to reading patterns.
Keywords User studies, Scientists, Electronic journals, Libraries, Information retrieval, Reading
Paper type Research paper
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