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Second Survey Highlights

The second survey of the e-Journal User Study, conducted by Stanford University Libraries in February 2002 with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, investigated scientists and practitioners' use of e-journal features and related scholarly practices such as searching for articles, staying current in their fields and subscribing to journals. Please go to research methodology for the second survey methodology. To view a complete copy of the survey instrument and charts and descriptive statistics for the survey data, please see the second survey questionnaire.


E-journals are used by scientists and practitioners not only for full-text article retrieval online but also for online-specific features: The most popular online-specific features among current features available are hyperlinks to cited articles (either within a journal or across journals). More than seventy-five percent of respondents have used hyperlinks to cited articles and found them useful.

Most current online features are useful to users except pay-per-view and video/graphics.

Pay-per-view: Pay-per-view was the least popular feature—more than fifty percent of the respondents never used and do not plan to use it. However, pay-per-view was used to meet an urgent need for a full-text article.

Alert services are useful to stay current: Most alert service users read the abstracts first before they read full-text articles and about 74 percent have online access to the journals from which they receive email alerts.


Lack of back issues is a big problem to users: Seventy-five percent of respondents reported that lack of back issues available online was "a big problem".

Infrastructure matters in perceiving problems: Slow downloading online is only a minor problem for users (50% say slow downloading PDF is a minor problem and only 13% say it is a big problem; 58% say slow downloading pictures in HTML is a minor problem and 19% say it is a big problem.), suggesting that most problems are related to users' infrastructure, such as older computers and slow printers.

The more you use, the more you demand: Dependency on e-journals is a key element in users' perceptions of problems. Relatively more respondents complain about PDF is not clear or too small to read (compared to other problems addressed) despite the fact PDF is the most popular format to read full-text articles on the screen.


Respondents like to see available formats and cost (if any) of full text as search results: the top eight types of search results users like to see displayed (in rank order) are:

  1. Title;
  2. Journal Name;
  3. Author;
  4. Date of Publication;
  5. Abstract;
  6. Page Numbers;
  7. Form of linked full text available (e.g., HTML or PDF, etc.);
  8. Whether there will be a charge to view full text.

More than seventy percent of respondents start searching for full-text articles from a multi-journal search website providing links to full text: 54 percent used PubMed and 24 percent used some other multi-journal website (such as Medline, Science Direct, etc.). The top four reasons for search engine choice were: familiarity, speed, comprehensiveness, and ease of use.

Users like to have immediate access to full text after searching for articles online: Top three concerns of searchers were:

  1. Articles that are not available in full text online without paying a fee per view (67%),
  2. Too many results returned from a search (41%),
  3. Results that are not well sorted by relevance to my search criteria (38%).

Users read multiple screens of search results: Seventy-two percent of the respondents look at 2-5 screens of search results. Only three percent answered that they look at the first screen only. Twenty-five percent of respondents look at more than 5 screens of search results.

READING PREFERENCES: After Online Retrieval

Users read full text articles and figures retrieved online on the screen: More than fifty percent of respondents read full-text articles on the screen after retrieving them online: Forty-two percent read full text on the screen in PDF format and 13 percent in HTML while forty-four percent read the printed copy rather than reading from the screen.

Sixty-six percent of respondents read figures and images on the screen—39 percent in PDF and 27 percent in HTML—while 33 percent prefer to print them out and read the printed copy.


Online features attract more personal subscriptions: The survey asked the reason why respondents subscribed to new journals or became members of new societies last year. The top three reasons in rank order were:

  1. I wanted more convenient access to the journal,
  2. The journal has been gaining importance in my field of research/practice,
  3. I wanted to take advantage of some features the journal had available online.

Economics was an important motivation for joining societies: The most popular reason for joining societies was to support the society's mission, but the second and the third most frequent motivations given were economic benefits—receiving journals free or discounted with memberships and attending conferences at a reduced rate.

Subscribers are price sensitive: The most frequent reason for canceling personal subscriptions last year was a sharp increase in the journal subscription price.

Please share your reactions to the Survey Findings by filling out our simple form. Your feedback is a valuable component of the E-Journal User Study.

Last updated: 05-22-02

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