Toronto Metropolitan University
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Information seeking behaviors, attitudes, and choices of academic mathematicians

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Version 2 2022-09-23, 18:13
Version 1 2021-05-24, 20:41
journal contribution
posted on 2022-09-23, 18:13 authored by Ian D. Gordon, Brian CameronBrian Cameron, Debbie Chaves, Rebecca Hutchinson
Mathematicians in academic institutions utilize a variety of resources and strategies to seek, find, and use scholarly information and news. Using a sample of mathematicians, researchers surveyed 112 students and faculty at four Canadian university institutions to explore self-perceived success rates, resources consulted, databases used, use of social media, and citation management systems. Further, 12 follow-up interviews were completed with mathematicians to better interpret survey results, resulting information-seeking behaviors, choices, strategies, and feelings on keeping up to date with information needs. According to survey results, a minority of mathematicians (12.5 percent) acknowledged that they were successfully keeping up to date. However, a significant number of mathematicians (28.6 percent) indicated that they were unsuccessful and could do better in remaining current with information needs. Co-investigators, using qualitative analyses, identified four emergent themes related to remaining current: (1) The “slower pace of math” pervades all aspects of this discipline;” (2) There are “too many papers – and not enough time” to effectively search, evaluate, and read scholarly papers of interest; (3) Mathematicians collectively acknowledge that they are open to strategies and technologies where they “could do better” keeping up to date; and (4) Mathematicians have divided loyalties using databases when searching for information by means of “MathSciNet in a Google world.” Additional insights document how mathematicians are guided by mathematical peculiarities and discipline-specific practices. This study helps to shed light on opportunities for academic librarians to identify and meet mathematicians’ evolving information needs. Keywords: Mathematicians, information-seeking behaviors, information needs, information sources, graduate students, faculty, academic (university) libraries, knowledge management