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Uses of Figures and Tables from Scholarly Journal Articles in Teaching and Research

Robert J. Sandusky, Carol Tenopir and Margaret M. Casado

(Submission #89)


Summary

Most previous research on scientistsí use of journal articles has focused on the use of entire articles for support of research activities including current awareness, writing papers and grant proposals, and investigating new research areas (Friedlander, 2002; Institute for the Future, 2002; Tenopir & King, 2004; National Science Board, 2006). A smaller number of published reports have commented upon how scientists use journal article components, such as tables, figures, and reference lists, but primarily with respect to making relevance assessments for entire articles (Stewart, 1996; Bishop, 1999). This study examined in detail the many uses scientists make of tables, figures, maps, photographs, and graphs contained in journal articles. These findings are taken from a comprehensive investigation into scientistsí satisfaction with a prototype retrieval system that indexes tables and figures culled from scientific journal articles (Sandusky & Tenopir, forthcoming). This paper summarizes four ways in which scientists utilize the information they find in tables and figures obtained from journal articles: creating new fixed documents; creating documents to support performative activities; making comparisons between their own work and the work of other researchers; and creating other information forms and objects.

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