Jody L. DeRidder and Kathryn G. Matheny performed an excellent study of how faculty use online databases to find primary source materials. The study looks at both how faculty search for materials as well as how they manage content after searching, and reveals shortcomings in services for post-discovery stages of the research process. Their findings are in the latest issue of D-Lib Magazine:
DeRidder and Matheny were interested in the how expert researchers found and used online primary source materials. They interviewed 11 faculty members at the University of Alabama, and assessed 29 participant-selected online databases. Their goal: “By assessing the gap between desired usability and actual experience in the researchers’ normal work environment, we sought to identify clear directions for improvement.”
They found that researchers need:
- Seamless and integrated fulfillment: Researchers had difficulty accessing and manipulating full-text.
- Standardization and interoperability across databases: Researchers expressed a desire to be able to link content across different databases, as well as have more consistent/standardized interfaces.
- Ability to use content effectively: Most interfaces assessed did not provide adequate post-discovery services, such as the ability to export, extract text, print, download, etc. More OCR and transcription of primary source content is also needed.
- Organization of content and citations: The study found that researchers do not have good methods of managing their content. Many relied heavily on lengthy Word documents to compile information such as notes, citations, quotations, etc.
From the article:
“Rarely do digital library developers think about what happens beyond the point at which researchers locate content in their databases, but that is where real barriers and challenges were evident in our study. The opportunity for new services and support in this area is pressing and rather critical.”
This study contains valuable data for all librarians, not just those working with special collections or digital libraries. All too often we forget that research is more than just discovery: researchers need to be able to work with what they find. We aren’t yet providing adequate tools for the entire research process.
What they found: