Exploring the use of electronic resources by humanities scholars during the research process

Publication Date01 April 2019
Date01 April 2019
AuthorShih-Chuan Chen
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Exploring the use of electronic
resources by humanities scholars
during the research process
Shih-Chuan Chen
Department of Library and Information Science,
Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan
Purpose This study aims to examine the types of documents that humanities scholars use in their
publications, how humanitiesscholars use electronic resources during their research, andtheir opinions are
regardingtheir librarys acquisition policy for electronicand printed resources.
Design/methodology/approach A total of 13 university faculty membersfrom the elds of Chinese
literature, history and philosophyparticipated in this study. The documents cited in their publications were
analyzedand in-depth interviews were conducted.
Findings The results showed that books were the dominant document type cited by the participants.
They frequently used electronic resources during the stages of idea generation; document search and
collection; and interpretation andwriting. If they used an ancient book in an electronic format, they cross-
checked it with its printed version to verify the accuracyof the text. Although the participants anticipated
that the university library would favour e-journals instead of printedjournals, they expected the university
library tocontinue purchasing printed books.
Originality/value Many university libraries encounter difculties in choosing between materials in
electronic and printed formats, particularly in the humanities eld. The study ndings provide a clear
understandingof how humanities scholars use electronic resourcesin the digital age.
Keywords E-books, Electronic resources, User behaviour, Humanities scholars, Research process
Paper type Research paper
Electronic resources have grown rapidly due to digitization. Consequently, scholars can
conveniently access resources on the internet. Moreover, many university libraries have
increased their spending on electronic collections, including those in the humanities eld.
Pandey and Misra (2014) claimed that university libraries should consider the changing
information needsand behaviours of humanities scholars in the digital age.
Studies have shown that humanitiesscholars do not frequently use electronic resources
(Bevilacqua, 2005;Horner and Thirlwall, 1988;Katzen, 1986). It is believed that humanities
scholars are generally unfamiliar with new technologies and prefer printed materials to
electronic materials. In a study conducted by Levine-Clark (2006), humanities faculty
members only used the electronic version as a backup when printed resources were
unavailable. However, the situation may have been inuenced by the availability of more
electronic resources. Tahir et al. (2010, p. 133) asserted that although humanities scholars
stick to print materials, they do pay good attention towards electronic technology.
Chrzastowski and Wiley (2015) found that humanities scholars preferred to use e-books,
even when a printed copy was available, and that the scholars would like to see more
e-content in their disciplines. However, they also reported that the humanities faculty still
Received31 August 2018
Revised15 March 2019
Accepted26 March 2019
TheElectronic Library
Vol.37 No. 2, 2019
pp. 240-254
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/EL-08-2018-0170
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