Scholarly Online Database Use in Higher Education: A Faculty Survey

Article excerpt

The availability of scholarly online databases has enhanced the efficacy of literature retrieval and related research endeavors (Pfaffenberger, 1990; Tensen, 2004). In tact, several survey studies have provided empirical data regarding the use and reliance on scholarly databases across academic disciplines (e.g., Brand, 1979; Moore & Finn, 1986; Perdue & Piotrowski, 1991; Perry & Dana, 1985). Undoubtedly, online database files have proliferated over the past decade and database searching is now a central pedagogic component in education. Both students and teachers in higher education strive to be informed about the utilitarian nature of online databases and rely on computer access to scholarly databases that tap the world's literature.

However, due to this proliferation of online research tools and sources, sparse data are presently available on attitudes toward and extent of online database use in higher education. To this end, the purpose of the current study is to gauge the use of online databases by faculty at the University of West Florida through the university's online public access catalog (OPAC). In addition to the reliance on specific databases, both benefits and limitations of select databases were evaluated. Suggestions for inclusion of additional databases across individual disciplines were noted.


The initial survey sample included 250 faculty members, across 17 disciplines, at the University of West Florida. The survey form tapped several distinct areas regarding the online database system in place during academic year 2004 at the university, including: a) scholarly databases most used by the instructor; b) concerns and limitations of each database, c) suggestions for additional databases not available through the university's OPAC, d) views about online options regarding research functions such as interlibrary loan, and e) full-text availability. Each faculty member received the survey form via campus mail; a total of 46 completed surveys were returned and served as the basis for data analysis.


These results are based on 46 faculty respondents representing all departments from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Professional Studies, and the College of Business; the mean number of years as a faculty member was (M= 10.71). The major scholarly databases relied on for research literature were (in order of preference): PsycINFO, JSTOR, Lexis-Nexis, ABI Inform, and ScienceDirect. Respondents noted several databases that were presently not available through the university and that they would like access to, most notably: Current Contents, Social Sciences Citation Index, and IEEE.

The major dissatisfactions about the university's OPAC were the limited access to full-text articles from most databases, i.e., full-text articles are available from recent volumes only (e.g., ScienceDirect: 1990+). However, questions about the level of satisfaction with interlibrary loan service indicated that 83% were "moderately" or "very" satisfied with the library's ability to retrieve requested articles and books in a timely manner. …