Scholarly use of Internet-based electronic resources

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 1 October 1998



Zhang, Y. (1998), "Scholarly use of Internet-based electronic resources", Internet Research, Vol. 8 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

Scholarly use of Internet-based electronic resources

Scholarly use of Internet-based electronic resources

Researcher: Yin ZhangGraduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 501 E. Daniel St. Champaign, IL 61820, USAE-mail:

Interested readers are also invited to contact: Professor Leigh Estabrook, Professor Linda Smith and Professor Caroline Haythornthwaite. Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 501 E. Daniel St. Champaign, IL 61820, USA.

Internet-based electronic resources (e-sources) are increasingly being used for scholarly purposes so there have already been a number of studies that look at the impact of the Internet on scholarly communication and scholarly communities. It has been found, for example, that network technologies can improve scholarly creativity and productivity (Cohen, 1996; Crawford, 1992) and that they have a transformative effect on the way scientists and scholars access information and disseminate the results of their research efficiently (Cronin and McKim, 1996; Lancaster, 1995; Peek and Newby, 1996). In spite of this optomistic view, there are still some problems to be overcome when e-sources are to be used as sources for research (Fletcher and Greehill, 1995; Harter and Kim, 1996; Kling and Covi, 1995; Schauder, 1994).

This project attempts to evaluate the impact of e-sources on formal scholarly communication in the area of library and information (LIS) since 1990. Moreover, it tries to interpret and identify the factors that play roles in the current practice of scholarly use of e-sources.

There are two groups of research questions in this study. The first group of questions attempts to evaluate the impact of the e-sources on formal scholarly communication in terms of being cited in journal articles since 1990. The second group of questions tries to give some explanation for the results of the first group questions by collecting further data through an author questionnaire survey. The second group of questions also aims to identify other factors that help to explain why and how e-sources are used in formal scholarly communication for the particular instances (the papers in the sample) and in a general sense. For example, what are the factors recognised by the scholars as the barriers and promoters for scholarly use of e-sources?


(1)Using citation-based indicators to evaluate the impact of e-sources

In a pretest, the ten most highly cited print journals (p-journals) in library and information science (LIS) were identified from the Social Science Citation Index database in Dialog. Four corresponding electronic journals (e-journals) in LIS were also selected and examined for e-source citing. It was found that not all p-journals had a reasonable amount of cited e-sources (see Zhang (in press) for the details of the pretest). For this study, therefore, the journal sample includes four e-journals and the following four p-journals which had the most cases of citing e-sources.

Print journal sample:

  1. 1.

    College and Research Libraries (C&RL).

  2. 2.

    Journal of Academic Librarianship (JAL).

  3. 3.

    Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS).

  4. 4.

    Library Trends (LT).

Electronic journal sample:

  1. 1.
  2. 2.

    LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal (LIBRES)

  3. 3.

    MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship (MC Journal)

  4. 4.

    Public Access Computer Systems Review (PACS-Review) pacsrev.html

Only research papers published in the eight journals were selected for this study. In order to get the most recent information, part of the data will be collected from in-press papers ­ works accepted for publication but not yet in print as of July 1, 1997 when the project started. E-sources cited as references in the papers will be examined. For the in-press papers, inquiries have been sent to the authors for the bibliography information. Thus the e-source sample is a good source for a longitudinal bibliography of records for e-sources in formal scholarly communication. It also provides the most recent information about citing practice of e-sources in research work. The data analysis for this part of the study is still underway.

(2) Doing a survey on editorial policies on citing e-sources

It has been noted that there are various conventions for citing e-sources. It may be helpful to know what the editorial policies are on citing e-sources. In September, 1997, letters and e-mail messages were sent to the editors of the eight journals asking if there are any editorial policies on how e-sources are referenced as well as a list of the in-press papers at the time. This part of the study has been completed.

(3) Doing an author survey on using e-sources for research

All the authors of the in-press papers form the author population of the study. The number of authors whose contact information was known is 203. An online survey instrument, which is used to generate personalised cover letters and questionnaires and to collect survey data has been designed for the study. On February 20 and 21, an invitation to participate in the survey was sent via e-mail to the authors whose e-mail addresses were available. Print copies of the survey were sent to the authors whose e-mail addresses were not available and to the authors who responded by asking for a print copy. Two weeks later (March 7), a follow-up e-mail was sent to the non-respondents. The data from the survey will be processed by April, 1998.

The survey includes five parts:

  • questions related to the paper in the sample;

  • use of e-sources;

  • citing e-sources;

  • evaluation of e-sources; and

  • information about the author and comments.

Though the overall data collection and data analysis are not complete, there are some interesting things to note from the pretest results and finished data sets. Based on the pretest, it was found that there is a journal media difference in citing e-sources. That is, e-journal article authors are more likely to cite e-sources than p-journal article authors. However, once authors cite e-sources, there is no significant difference in citing e-sources as measured by the number of e-sources cited per article, which suggests that citing e-sources may be author related. Factors involved will be explored from the author survey data. An evaluation of the accessibility of the e-sources in this study and editorial policies suggest that lack of citing conventions for e-sources is a barrier to the accessibility of e-sources. The project will be competed at the end of 1998.


Funding is by Graduate College Fellowship, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Cohen, J. (1996), "Computer mediated communication and publication productivity among faculty", Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy, Vol. 6 No. 2-3, pp. 41-63.

Crawford, W. (1992), "Creativity and connectedness: results", 13 October, A message posted to PACS-L. Available at

Cronin, B. and McKim, G. (1996), "Science and scholarship on the World Wide Web: a North American perspective", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 52 No. 2, pp. 163-71.

Fletcher, G. and Greehill, A. (1995), "Academic referencing of Internet-based resources", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 47 No. 11-12, pp. 245-52.

Harter, S.P. and Kim, H.J. (1996), "Accessing electronic journals and other e-publications: an empirical study", College & Research Libraries, Vol. 57 No. 5, pp. 440-56.

Kling, R. and Covi, L. (1995), "Electronic journals and legitimate media in the systems of scholarly communication", The Information Society, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 261-71.

Lancaster, F.W. (1995), "The evolution of electronic publishing", Library Trends, Vol. 43 No. 4, pp. 518-27.

Peek, R.P. and Newby, G.B. (Eds) (1996), Scholarly Publishing: The Electronic Frontier, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

Schauder, D. (1994), "Electronic publishing of professional articles: attitudes of academics and implications for the scholarly communication industry", Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Vol. 43 No. 2, pp. 73-100.

Zhang, Y. (in press), "Impact of Internet-based electronic resources in formal scholarly communication in the area of library and information science", Journal of Information Science.

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