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In 2015, ProQuest conducted a study on researchers’ use of news resources. This is the second in a five-part series focused on the study results and use of news resources in research.
There is plenty of debate on whether journalism will thrive or die. The discussions are happening against a backdrop of constant change in the media industry – new players, evolving consumption habits, changing formats, multiplying channels and reviews of legislation. What is certain is that the demand for good journalistic output for researchers remains strong. A 2014 usage review of databases containing major titles such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Jerusalem Post, and The Times of India showed that Humanities researchers were accessing news articles 40% more compared to the previous year.
So why do researchers love and use news resources?
1. Speed matters. Researchers want the latest news updates to complement their research. They may be looking to keep abreast of new scientific information, business and political events and need current material not yet available in books and journal articles.
2. Reputation is everything. While looking for up to date information, researchers will rely on non-scholarly but editorially vetted content. Titles favoured are those that feature articles by credible journalists, whose work are deemed to be done with integrity and can, therefore, be trusted.
3. A treasure trove for research topics. Newspapers and digital-first news provide a large pool of ideas, concerns and trends. When asked about their purpose for using ProQuest news resources, researchers indicated that over 70% of the time, they were looking for articles to test their research hypothesis.
4. ‘Extra! Extra! Read all about it!’ Although researchers will get breaking news via the internet, television, or radio, for topics that are related to their research area, news reports providing first-hand accounts by journalists are vital for providing critical analysis and context.
5. Access to unique information. Researchers know that new ideas come from far and wide, and news sources provide a great foundation for finding information not published elsewhere.
6. Diverse perspectives. Researchers regularly seek out diverse viewpoints and information about specific communities that may not be covered in mainstream papers. For this, they rely on ProQuest specialty collections such as ProQuest Historical Newspapers – Chinese Newspapers Collection, Historical Black Newspapers and the Historical American Jewish Newspapers.
7. Facts and figures. For researchers who need quick access to current statistics and demographic trends, news sources provide a great starting point for fact-checking and for getting a sense of the size, extent and impact of a specific issue.
8. Local information not available elsewhere. Access to regional news is important to researchers as it provides them with information that national and international agencies don’t cover. They are the go-to source to gain a local perspective on an issue, read about specific people, events and obituaries.
9. Business updates. Specific business events and trends evolve at a fast pace and information about privately owned companies, in particular, may be difficult for researchers to source. News sources reporting on company acquisitions, employees, local investments and sponsorships provide a gateway for relevant business information.
10. Law and order. News sources provide insights on public discourse about legislation, legal rulings and decisions associated with current events and issues. Researchers can gauge popular opinion on topics related to their fields that do not yet appear in academic papers.
For academic research to flourish, the multiple perspectives that newspapers and news sources provide on topics and events will remain crucial to researchers, and the demand for good journalism will continue to grow.
Next week, read more on ProQuest’s study of researchers’ use of news sources.
Source: ProQuest News user surveys, 2015