The Types of Publications Read by Finnish Scholars Vary with Their Purposes for Reading
A Review of:
Late, E., Tenopir, C., Talja, S., & Christian, L. (2019). Reading practices in scholarly work: From articles and books to blogs. Journal of Documentation, 75(3), 478-499. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-11-2018-0178
Objective – To closely examine the role of reading in scholarly work, with particular attention to the relationships between reading practices and characteristics of the scholars, the types of publications they read, and the context of reading.
Design – Survey.
Setting – Universities in Finland.
Subjects – 528 academics (research directors/managers, professors, post doctoral researchers, doctoral students, lecturers, and researchers).
Methods – An online survey was distributed in Finland, October-December 2016. The first part of the survey asked about scholars’ general reading practices; the second part asked about their most recent reading of two particular publications, one a journal article and the other a different publication type. In relation to these two readings, the scholars provided information about the documents read, the reading process and context, how the document was identified and obtained, and the effect of the reading on their work.
Main Results – On average, the scholars read 59 publications per month: 20 journal articles, 3 books, 5 conference proceedings or research reports, 17 newspaper articles, 9 magazine articles, 4 blogs, and 2 non-fiction/fiction books. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of journal articles read across disciplines, but the number of books read was highest in the humanities and social sciences and lowest in the sciences and medical sciences. Frequency of reading of particular publication types also varied by work focus (research vs. teaching/administrative) and by the nature of the scholar’s research (basic vs. applied).
The scholars were also asked about the importance of reading different publication types. Overall, scholarly journals and article compilations were rated as most important for scholarly reading. Differences in these ratings were found across disciplines, work focus, nature of the research, and scholar rank/status.
Part 2 of the survey focused on the most recent items read by the scholars. Their reading of journal articles, scholarly books, and conference proceedings/research reports was mainly for the purpose of research and writing. Their reading of newspaper articles, magazine articles, and blogs was mainly for current awareness and continuing education. Their reading of non-fiction/fiction books was mainly for their personal interest or pleasure. None of these publication types was specifically focused on supporting the scholars’ teaching.
Over 70 percent of the recent readings were new, rather than re-readings. Across all publication types, the scholars read at least parts of the item “with great care”. Almost half of the journal articles recently read have been or will be cited in the future; this proportion was also high for scholarly books and conference proceedings/research reports, but not for the other publication types.
The most recently read journal articles were brought to the scholar’s attention primarily through searching; they became aware of scholarly books and conference proceedings/research reports through both searching and because another person told them about the item. Scholars mainly obtained journal articles and scholarly books from their libraries, but they also obtained articles on the Internet and scholarly books from another person.
Forty percent of the scholars read journal articles by printing a downloaded copy, but over half read them on a computer, mobile phone, or e-reader. Over half of the scholarly books were read from published/printed copy, but 18% read the book in an electronic version. Most reading occured in the scholar’s office or lab.
Over half the journal articles and conference proceedings/research reports read were published within the last year; just under half the scholarly books read were published within the last year. While these scholars worked in Finland, 91% of the journal articles and 73% of the scholarly books they read were published in English.
Conclusion – The results from this study confirmed and extended findings from previous studies (e.g., Tenopir et al., 2010, 2015). They demonstrated that scholars read a variety of types of publications for a variety of purposes. However, journal articles still dominated the reading and the perceptions of importance among the various publication types, particularly for the purposes of research and writing. This paper provides a first look at scholars’ uses of the other publication types and the influence of work tasks on reading practices; further research is needed to understand these relationships more fully. In general, the disciplinary differences in reading practices found in this study mirror the different publishing practices of the disciplines and so may be affected by future evolution toward open access and social media use for scholarly communication.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Barbara M. Wildemuth
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