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Most previous research on scientistsí use of electronic 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). This study improves our understanding of scientistsí use of journal articles by (1) focusing on how scientists search for, retrieve, and use specific journal article components, particularly tables and figures (including graphs, maps, and photographs), and (2) by broadening the inquiry to include scientistsí use of journal article components to support their teaching and presentation activities.
This study found that researchers find figures and tables important to them both as independent objects (e.g., to disaggregate them from their context in journal articles and re-use as figures in presentations and lectures) and as a means to more efficiently identify relevant journal articles to support research-related activities. Researchers search for and use different types of journal article components depending upon the current task context and the nature of their own research. Participant comments also indicate that service providers have an opportunity to create and market services that bridge the gap between their needs and priorities regarding journal article components and the ability of current systems to meet those needs. Particular gaps include the mismatch between services provided by generic search engine providers, such as Google Images, that fail to discriminate between images related to scholarly work and popular images; the need for higher quality indexing of journal article components; and the need for tools designed specifically to support search for and use of components drawn from scientific journal articles.
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