Citation management software is an incredibly useful tool to help researchers organize their references and generate properly formatted bibliographies. Some citation managers also enable users to search references from data sources like online libraries and other databases. Searching information this way can be quicker and more efficient than using a Web browser.
With this in mind, we wondered what are the data sources scholars and researchers import most?
Looking at data collected by RefWorks starting in 2013 through the spring of 2016, here are the top 10 data sources imported by researchers listed in alphabetical order:
- Google/Google Scholar
- Science Direct
- Web of Knowledge/Web of Science
These data sources have appeared among the top 10, quarter by quarter, for the entire span of time we’re observing. However, where they place on the list in terms of popularity fluctuate markedly throughout this duration.
Many factors can influence fluctuations in the numbers. School calendars, for instance, such as when students are away for summer break or on a winter holiday, can impact how many (or how few) users are importing data during that time, so it’s interesting to note when there might be drastic changes during those periods.
So why might smaller numbers of users, such as those who are importing data during non-peak times, be importing from different data sources?
Chances are those users are more advanced researchers who are less impacted by the school calendar, such as faculty, alumni or clinicians, who continue their work through breaks in the academic year. These advanced researchers, who might come from fields in the sciences, for example, will be importing different kinds of data than the larger body of undergraduate students conducting more generalized research.
In this kind of scenario, it would make sense that data sources heavier in the science-related content would increase in popularity during quarters when fewer researchers overall are using a citation management system.
The numbers might also be influenced by trends in research topics –which we will look at in more detail with a future blog post.
Spikes in the number of imports can also be more noticeable with data sources that have smaller numbers of users – i.e. those not listed in the top 10 – such as university libraries, which make up almost a third of the top 300 imported data sources (of the several hundred) in RefWorks.
It’s not unusual to find a school library with a consistent number of, say, a couple thousand imports over the course of several quarters, then drop down to next to zero imports one-quarter, then back up to a couple thousand imports for each of the remaining quarters.
RefWorks enables users to collect and import data sources via:
- Direct export from hundreds of databases
- Full-text search
- Saved from Web Bookmarklet
- Integrated search of online catalogs via Z39.50
*Check out these resources for detailed information on importing data sources:
Find out more about how RefWorks can help manage resource citations.
*Z39.50 is an international information retrieval standard that allows one computer to speak to another in order to discover and gather information. It was developed by and is widely used in the library community. Z39.50 is often used with bibliographic database software and in integrated library systems.