Searching and sourcing online academic literature: Comparisons of doctoral students and junior faculty in education

Ching-Ting Hsin (Department of Early Childhood Education, National Hsinchu University of Education, Hsinchu, Taiwan)
Ying-Hsueh Cheng (Language Center, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Pingtung, Taiwan)
Chin-Chung Tsai (Graduate Institute of Digital Learning and Education, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taipei, Taiwan)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Publication date: 14 November 2016



The purpose of this paper is to explore educational researchers’ online literature searching and sourcing strategies.


Adopting a multiple-case study approach, the authors conducted interviews and compared strategies employed by three groups of researchers: less-experienced doctoral students, experienced doctoral students, and junior faculty.


The results showed that the three groups differed in four searching strategies and two sourcing strategies. The former included: using and modifying keywords, doing advanced searches to narrow down or expand results, chaining, and networking to retrieve literature, while the latter consisted of: evaluating and selecting multiple-source articles, and self-monitoring the multiple-source searching process. The findings also revealed that the experienced doctoral students and junior faculty were able to adopt searching and sourcing strategies flexibly and simultaneously for the purpose of determining more relevant and useful sources. The findings suggest that these researchers, especially the less-experienced students, need specialized training to acquire sourcing strategies in order to critically evaluate relevant information or scholarly work to fulfill their research purposes.


Information seeking, an essential part of scholars’ work, has been widely examined across disciplines. However, few studies have explored scholars’ searching and sourcing behaviors for online academic literature. This study fulfilled the research gap.



This study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan (Grant Number MOST 101-2511-S-011-003-MY3).


Hsin, C.-T., Cheng, Y.-H. and Tsai, C.-C. (2016), "Searching and sourcing online academic literature: Comparisons of doctoral students and junior faculty in education", Online Information Review, Vol. 40 No. 7, pp. 979-997.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.