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Electronic journals and changes in scholarly article seeking and reading patterns

Carol Tenopir (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Donald W. King (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Sheri Edwards (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Lei Wu (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Article publication date: 16 January 2009




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.


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.


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.


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.



Tenopir, C., King, D.W., Edwards, S. and Wu, L. (2009), "Electronic journals and changes in scholarly article seeking and reading patterns", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 61 No. 1, pp. 5-32.



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