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'Finding scholarly content' - how do you get what you need?

Posted Sep 22 2008 4:35pm

One of the more interesting questions for open access advocates and journal publishers is how readers find newly-published research. This is particularly important for long-term strategic planning and to assist OA journals in building their online reputations for eventual indexing in major databases like Medline and Embase.

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Pull for Help

A recent white paper sponsored by AnnualReviews.org, PNAS.org, MetaPress and Nature .com entitled " How readers navigate to scholarly content" compared some of the changing behaviours of users from 2005 to 2008. The researchers looked specifically at how publisher website design and functionality impacted accessibility and current awareness of the users. (There's also a good section entitled Role of the librarian.)

This research repeats earlier work that examined researchers views in locating scholarly content. The subtle shift in user preferences provides valuable insight into findability and navigation on the web circa 2008. It also underlines which features researchers find most useful and the role of library technologies in getting researchers to where they want to go on the web.

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Journal readers are more likely to find a journal web site at article or abstract levels via search tools, according to the research. This finding has significant implications for publisher web site design and metadata description. Some of the features of publisher web sites may become unnecessary also and, as a consequence, even harder to find. As more functionality moves to the reader’s preferred finding tools (taking them to the article level) - some websites become less important in the researcher's search habits.

In 2008, a highly sought-after feature of journal sites is content alerting services via RSS aggregators, blogs and email -- not search tools at websites or other personalized portal designs. These findings shed light on how journal publishers can build and design web sites to meet the changing needs and behaviours of researchers in a web 2.0 age.


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