Information Seeking Behaviour of Engineering Researchers


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Information Seeking Behaviour of Engineering Researchers

  1. 1. Information Seeking Behaviour of Engineering Researchers Dr Rob. C. Pullar Centre for Physical Electronics and Materials, Faculty of Engineering, Science and the Built Environment, London South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA, UK
  2. 2. Contents of this Presentation <ul><li>What are the information needs of Scientists and Engineers? Why are we looking for information? </li></ul><ul><li>Search behaviour and information use </li></ul><ul><li>Science specific interfaces – journal sites, gateways, data bases </li></ul><ul><li>Non specific search engines and resources </li></ul><ul><li>Summary </li></ul>
  3. 3. Rob Pullar’s Background <ul><li>B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry, University of Leicester </li></ul><ul><li>M.Sc. by research in Inorganic Chemistry at University of Wales, Bangor </li></ul><ul><li>PhD in Materials Engineering from University of Warwick </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Worked for five years as Research Fellow in Department of Engineering while doing part time PhD in magnetic ceramics and ceramic fibres </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Research Fellow in Department of Electrical, Computer & Communications Engineering (ECCE) of LSBU since 2000 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Working on electronic & magnetic ceramics, Materials </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Types of Information Source useful to Science & Engineering Researchers <ul><li>In order of usefulness: </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific & Engineering Journals (peer reviewed) </li></ul><ul><li>Specialised Science & Engineering search engines & data bases </li></ul><ul><li>General search engines </li></ul><ul><li>Online Conference Proceedings, Theses, Seminars </li></ul><ul><li>Physical library, hard copies, books, British Library ILL </li></ul><ul><li>Web 2.0 resources (Wiki, RSS, blogs, etc.) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why are we Searching Literature? <ul><li>To keep up with new developments / discoveries </li></ul><ul><li>To get ideas for new research areas </li></ul><ul><li>To find the solution to a problem </li></ul><ul><li>To see if anyone else has already done that work </li></ul><ul><li>To find out properties / structures of, or ways to make, specific materials / compounds / composites / forms </li></ul><ul><li>To check previous work in a field when refereeing </li></ul><ul><li>To keep up with your own publications / citations </li></ul><ul><li>To write lectures / find resources for students </li></ul>
  6. 6. To what Uses do we put this Information? <ul><li>Keeping up with the latest progress in specific field </li></ul><ul><li>Solving problems in the lab – understanding why something is or isn’t happening – day to day lab work </li></ul><ul><li>Writing papers – need background for introduction, references of related work to support findings </li></ul><ul><li>Writing proposals – must be novel and worthwhile ideas, should have some application in mind, often in a new area in which you have little knowledge or experience </li></ul><ul><li>Reviewing papers / proposals </li></ul><ul><li>Constructing lecture courses, outlining student projects, giving background references to students </li></ul>
  7. 7. 1. Keeping up with the Latest Progress <ul><li>Need to see what are the hot topics / materials amongst your peers in the same field </li></ul><ul><li>Check up on what your competitors are publishing – science & engineering is VERY competitive, especially when finding ideas for future funding </li></ul><ul><li>Look at every issue of key journals for interesting, ground-breaking papers (Nature, Science, IEEE trans, J. Euro and American Ceramic Societies for me) </li></ul><ul><li>Essential that we have subscription to these journals </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><li>Alerts on contents of every issue of key journals </li></ul>
  8. 8. 2. Solving Problems in the Lab <ul><li>To see what other workers have done with that material / problem, how their results match yours </li></ul><ul><li>See if there are any properties / features of this material / problem which you were unaware of </li></ul><ul><li>Problem solving and lateral thinking is an essential part of research – it is about climbing over a series of barriers </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><li>Searching abstracts for keywords on ScienceDirect / Web of Science / Scopus – not individual journal contents </li></ul><ul><li>Looking up / linking to those papers on the journal sites </li></ul><ul><li>These must be online – too inconvenient to go to library </li></ul>
  9. 9. 3. Writing Papers <ul><li>To write the introduction / background to the work – any statements made or values given that are not your own work must be referenced </li></ul><ul><li>You must justify or contrast your findings by comparison or reference to the previous work done in that area </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><li>As you have been working in this area, normally have a stack of papers to hand in this area – recycling is common! </li></ul><ul><li>Search abstracts for specific materials or techniques </li></ul><ul><li>Need to be able to download a PDF to store / print </li></ul><ul><li>Specific values or properties are best looked up on Google </li></ul>
  10. 10. Once a Paper is Written <ul><li>Although most journals let you submit online, for many there is little or no online tracking / notification </li></ul><ul><li>Once a paper has been accepted, it may take 6-12 months to be physically published – often online much earlier - ScienceDirect puts proofs online now </li></ul><ul><li>You need to search or have alerts to track your own papers – I use ScienceDirect & Web of Science </li></ul><ul><li>To keep up with how often my papers are cited I use Web of Science citations search every couple of months </li></ul><ul><li>DOI (digital object identifier) links are very useful to refer to unpublished papers – will still work even if site changes </li></ul>
  11. 11. 4. Writing Proposals <ul><li>For proposals you need to have novel ideas </li></ul><ul><li>These must be exciting, cutting edge, and need to have an industrial / commercial application </li></ul><ul><li>Need to know what are the latest “buzz” words, where the interest is concentrated – can’t afford to “miss the boat” </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><li>The best source online is the major journals in your field, plus Nature, Science, review papers, etc. – keyword search </li></ul><ul><li>Google is useful to look for theses, websites, seminars, and other non-published data – by the time it is published it is often no longer new & cutting edge </li></ul><ul><li>Can use Google to search for potential industrial partners, but usually done through established contacts </li></ul>
  12. 12. 5. Reviewing Papers / Proposals <ul><li>When reviewing papers, you need to know is the work is original or not – often not in your exact field of expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Need to search abstracts for the subject, but also author names to see what they have published before </li></ul><ul><li>Often want to check out their references, see if they are relevant, or even worse just copied </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><li>Searching on ScienceDirect / Web of Science for previous publications by authors or references </li></ul><ul><li>Important to be able to access older papers – often a problem with online access </li></ul>
  13. 13. 6. Constructing Lecture Courses <ul><li>Need access to hard copies of text books, both to construct a course and for student reading lists </li></ul><ul><li>Web 2.0 sources like Wikipedia,, etc. can be very useful here, but remember they can be unreliable </li></ul><ul><li>Google Images is a valuable resource to find nice pictures of things – need to brighten up lecture with images / examples </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><li>Physically going to the library (at last!) and taking out books </li></ul><ul><li>Need to look through a good selection of books, to get the best from them. Need large numbers of key texts for students </li></ul><ul><li>Use Google & Wikipedia for simple summaries and pictures - ignore copyright issues when Googling images for seminars! </li></ul>
  14. 14. Scientific Journals <ul><li>Firstly, it is essential these days that we have online access to all journals – too inconvenient and time consuming to go to libraries and find hard copies </li></ul><ul><li>Most journals are covered by a few gateways: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Science Direct: access to all Elsevier journals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Springer Link: 1500 journals, but not free access to all </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IEL online: all IEEE / IEE journals, trans & proc (>4000) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ingenta: Blackwell & others, but few free accessible papers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IoP Select: all Institute of Physics journals – not at LSBU </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>APS: all American Physical Society journals – not at LSBU </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some accessed through individual or society subscription: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nature ( ), Science ( ), J. Am. Ceram. Soc., J. Mat. Res. (Materials Research Soc.) </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Searching & Alerts in Journals <ul><li>All of these journals have fully searchable contents pages, that at least show the abstract even if you have to pay for article </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly all journals or gateways have email alerts that can be set up, to send you the contents page of each new issue </li></ul>
  16. 16. Searching & Alerts in Journals <ul><li>I have alerts with all the key journals, and a few others that are interesting – it takes minute to scan the contents page for any interesting articles </li></ul><ul><li>Direct links from email to the article PDF, if free access allowed </li></ul><ul><li>This means that RSS isn’t really useful for scientific journals </li></ul>
  17. 17. Gateways and Databases <ul><li>Gateways : ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, IoP Select, IEL </li></ul><ul><li>Data bases : Web of Science, Scopus </li></ul><ul><li>These are the most useful tools of all, as they search only scientific journals, proceedings, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Searching is simple, using categories such as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>words in abstract, authors, keywords, publication date </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Boolean searching possible </li></ul><ul><li>Combined searches, or search within a search, is essential </li></ul><ul><li>Most have alerts that can be set up for keywords or authors </li></ul><ul><li>I search almost exclusively on ScienceDirect and Web of Science – these cover every recent paper I have ever needed </li></ul>
  18. 18. Search on ScienceDirect – 15 hits Excellent summaries, immediate link to PDF, flexible search Only has Elsevier papers, articles before 1995 not free here
  19. 19. Search on Web of Science – 37 hits Covers absolutely everything – even letters in New Scientist No abstracts before 1990 – just titles, no longer has alerts
  20. 20. Search on Scopus – 34 hits Covers most journals, can search web or patents too More flexible than Web of Science, but search not as good!
  21. 21. Citations on Web of Science <ul><li>The best site for citation searches – finds every citation, can get nice analysis of results, and statistics on each paper </li></ul><ul><li>Can remove self citations to get true figures ( 169 for me) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Proceedings and Patents <ul><li>Conference Proceedings can be searched quite easily, but: </li></ul><ul><li>The peer-reviewed ones are of a decent quality, and are published in journals through gateways or data bases anyway </li></ul><ul><li>The non peer-reviewed ones tend to be of a poor quality, often not worth reading – no quality control </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Often have only a title, not even an abstract online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Always have to pay, and often have to buy a whole book </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Patents can be useful to see what industry has been looking at, but usually very little useful information comes from them </li></ul><ul><li>Searching for and through patents is very hard, boring work </li></ul><ul><li>There are no really good patents search engines, that covers UK, EU, US, world & other patents – this would be useful </li></ul>
  23. 23. General Search Engines <ul><li>I have always found Google to be the best for several years </li></ul><ul><li>Positives: </li></ul><ul><li>Often the only way to find theses / seminars </li></ul><ul><li>Find some really good sites with lectures / seminars for introductory level / students – excellent for teaching, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>The best way of finding out what a person is doing, links to their home pages / institutions, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Google images very good to finding interesting pictures </li></ul><ul><li>Negatives: </li></ul><ul><li>Often searches just turn up links to abstracts or journal sites for papers that you can’t access for free – waste of time </li></ul><ul><li>Too many dead links </li></ul>
  24. 24. Other Useful Online Resources <ul><li>British Library: now that Inter Library Loans can be done online, it is much better and this service will be used more </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia: Very good site, as long as you take what it says with a pinch of salt. I always recommend this to students, as long as they remember that anyone can alter a wiki </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The new less-open version should be more reliable </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Metafind: I have only just discovered this on the LISA site </li></ul><ul><li>Seems an excellent way to search general sites and weed out useless links – combing Google, Yahoo & MSN gives better results than individual searches on these </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most links are not to paper PDFs, making it easier to find the useful sites that you can’t find with a specialised search engine or database. </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Conclusions: Information Needs of Scientists and Engineers <ul><li>Online access to papers with downloadable PDFs essential </li></ul><ul><li>Subscription to key journals essential </li></ul><ul><li>Gateways/databases that cover every paper when searching </li></ul><ul><li>Alerts on contents/searches/own publications (not RSS) </li></ul><ul><li>Proceedings not published in journals often low quality </li></ul><ul><li>Patents can be useful, but hard to decipher and search </li></ul><ul><li>Google useful for general searches, images, theses, seminars, hot topics… </li></ul><ul><li>… BUT hard work to weed out useless links </li></ul><ul><li>Metafind may be a partial answer to this </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia useful for students, preparing lectures, etc. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Wish List – what I would like <ul><li>Alerts on Web of Science </li></ul><ul><li>Databases / gateways that can be told to not show any paper to which you do not have free full access </li></ul><ul><li>A truly international patents search engine </li></ul><ul><li>A single, international data base of theses, searchable for abstract or full text </li></ul><ul><li>Google-like search engine that can be told to ignore abstracts, PDFs or links to journal sites </li></ul>