Nursing Faculty and Scholarly Publishing: Survey of Perceptions

  • Barbara F. Schloman, Ph.D., AHIP
    Barbara F. Schloman, Ph.D., AHIP

    Barbara F. Schloman, Ph.D., AHIP, is a health sciences librarian who serves as the Information Resources Editor of the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. She is interested in the use of the nursing literature by nursing students and faculty and the role librarians can play to support the information-seeking activities of these users. She is Director, Library Information Services, and Professor, Libraries & Media Services, Kent State University.


The dramatic changes taking place in scholarly publishing affect authors, readers, publishers, and librarians. A survey was undertaken in Fall, 1999, to develop a profile of the current perceptions and use of journals'”both print and electronic'”by nursing faculty and administrators. Faculty and administrators in 516 schools of nursing in the U.S. were invited to participate; 619 responses were received providing information on: personal characteristics, nature of position, types of available computer access, perceived level of expertise with computers and computer applications, journal use and publication record, characteristics of quality journals, credibility of e-journals, and deterrents of e-journal use. Results indicate that access to and facility with the technology relate to journal use and publication record. The greatest deterrents to use of electronic journals are technological limitations, no library subscription, and lack of awareness. In tenure/promotion decisions, 51.8% of respondents felt print journals were seen as more credible than electronic journals.

Keywords: journals, electronic publishing, computer access, computer experience, publication record


This is a period of dramatic change in scholarly publishing. Journal costs have skyrocketed and are outstripping library budgets. At the same time, we are seeing the advent of electronic journals as a new publishing medium. Such a change has tremendous implications for professionals that use and publish in scholarly journals, as well as for libraries and librarians that have responsibility for providing access to and managing the archive of the scholarly record.

Nursing journals

The universe of nursing journals is large. Binger and Jensen (1980) reported that the number of journals in nursing had grown from one journal in 1886 to sixty in 1980. These, of course, were all print publications. Today, CINAHL, the major indexing service for nursing, covers over 400 nursing titles'”both print and electronic ("Updates and What's New," 1999). A mix of packaging and of access options confronts readers and authors of scholarly journals. The possible journal types include print-only, electronic-only, both print and electronic versions, without cost, by subscription only, or by fee per article.

Scholarly Journals and Tenure/Promotion

Journals play a special role for those in academe, as they serve as important resources for both teaching and research. Publication in refereed journals is also a key criterion in tenure and promotion decisions. Journals differ by reputation and credibility. Fagin (1982) commented on the importance of identifying quality journals both for those nursing faculty members in tenure-track positions in choosing where to publish and for their colleagues when passing judgment for tenure or promotion. "Those who write for a refereed journal are twice judged'”before and after publication" (Copp, 1988, p.394). Miller and Serzan (1984) stated that "'¦administrators and members of promotion and tenure committees often do not read a candidate‘s publications but judge the quality of a journal article by the quality or reputation of the journal in which it appeared" (p.673-74).

This concern for established journal credibility is believed to be one factor impeding full acceptance of the electronic-only journals (Cronin & Overfelt, 1995; Kling & McKim, 1999). Therefore, this journal format is often seen as a risky publication choice for the untenured (Langston, 1996; Speier, Palmer, Wren, & Hahn, 1999). Harter (1998) found in a study of citation data of selected electronic journals that their impact on their fields was minimal. He concluded that even with high quality articles, the overall influence of these journals would be limited until they increased the number of articles they publish on an annual basis.

Computer Technology and Networked Information

An individual‘s use of electronic journals requires computer and network access along with the appropriate computer-related skills. Armstrong in 1986 laid out the need for nurse educators to be computer literate. Certainly, that call would be more acute today.

An individual‘s use of electronic journals requires computer and network access along with the appropriate computer-related skills.

The constant changes in the technology challenge all involved to try to keep up'”to pay for it, have the necessary technical support, and develop the requisite skills and understanding. This is a battle fought on campuses as well as by individuals working to establish computer, and often Internet access, at home.

The lack of adequate access as a key inhibitor to electronic journal use is well-established (Woodward, Rowland, McKnight, Meadows, & Pritchett, 1997). This is a problem not restricted to any nation‘s borders. Murray and Anthony (1999) reported that a maximum of 15% of United Kingdom nurses has access to the Web and that this figure would hold for nurses elsewhere in Europe. Even with access, many still lack the level of technology needed to take advantage of newer Web capabilities.

This Study

This study was undertaken to develop a profile of the current perceptions and use of journals'”both print and electronic'”by U.S. nursing faculty and administrators. The choice was made to collect data through a Web survey. The assumption made was that contacting possible participants via e-mail and providing a Web-based survey would facilitate responses. This survey mode was expected to affect the representativeness of the sample by drawing more respondents that were frequent users of e-mail and computers.

The option existed for a participant to print the survey and return by post, but few used this avenue. The survey questions covered demographic information: respondent personal characteristics, nature of position, Carnegie classification of institution (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1994). Additionally, respondents were asked to indicate the types of available computer access, perceived level of expertise with computers and computer applications, journal use and publication record, characteristics of quality journals, credibility of electronic journals in tenure/promotion decisions, and deterrents of electronic journal use.

An e-mail invitation to participate was sent in Fall, 1999, to 516 deans of schools of nursing that are members of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The deans in turn were asked to share the invitation with members of their faculty. The survey could be completed online, and the responses were sent as an anonymous e-mail message to the investigator. There was no identification in the e-mail of the respondent‘s e-mail address or institutional affiliation. No attempt was made to limit responses to faculty and eliminate those serving as administrators in schools of nursing. Those with administrative appointments typically have at one time functioned as regular faculty, hold faculty rank, and are similarly credentialled. Therefore, they were considered a legitimate part of this profile.

A total of 619 responses were received. Given that the invitation to participate went to over 500 schools of nursing, the response rate was quite low. Because of the anonymity of responses, it was not possible to determine how many institutions were represented in the sample. The Carnegie classification is designed to cluster similar institutions based on program offerings and research commitment. However, this survey item was left unanswered by 55% of the respondents. Therefore, this item did not yield profiling information for the institutions represented and was discarded.

Profile of Respondents

Respondents were evenly represented between those less than 50 years of age (50.2%) and those 50 years or older (49.8%). Those whose highest degree is a doctorate (56.4%) were more prevalent than those with a master‘s (43.4%) as their highest earned degree; 44.7% have taught one to ten years, and 55.3% have eleven years or more of teaching experience.

In terms of their current position, 57.7% are in a tenure-track position; and, of those, 56.9% have tenure. Therefore, a little more than one-third of the total sample is tenured. In terms of rank, 52.4% are junior faculty (instructor or assistant professor), and 40.7% are senior faculty (associate or full professor). One quarter of the respondents hold administrative appointments. Table 1 is a summary of the degree levels taught by the respondents; more than one level could be indicated.

Table 1: Degree levels taught

Degree level

% of respondents









Do not teach


Note: Participants could indicate more than one level (n = 617).

Computer-Related Access and Experience

Respondents were asked what kind of computer and network access (personal computer, e-mail, Internet/Web) they have and where it is available, as well as how experienced they consider themselves to be with regard to computers. Table 2 summarizes the extent of access reported. About 97% have these various forms of computer-related access in their office. The numbers for home access are less, although nearly 90% reported having a personal computer at home. Only about 78% have network access at home for e-mail or Internet/Web.

Table 2: Access to Computers and the Internet/Web

Location (% of respondents)

Type of access



Personal computer









Note: Participants could indicate multiple points of access (n = 619).

Respondents‘ self-report of their experience level with computers and related applications is shown in Table 3. For each of the activity types the "low" category had the largest percentage of responses with figures around the fifty percent mark. Report of moderate experience levels for all types of computer-related activities was between 41 and 44% of respondents. In the high level experience category, the strongest response was for Internet/Web (14.1%), compared with 11% for PC applications and only 2.3% for e-mail.

It is somewhat surprising that e-mail had the fewest respondents (2.3%) reporting a high level of experience and the most judging themselves to be in the low category (56.8%). This seems counter to conventional wisdom, which considers e-mail to be the initial activity that engages people in network-related activities. Yet, respondents in this study reported being more facile users of the Internet/Web than e-mail. That is, 56.3% indicated a moderate or high level with Internet/Web, compared with 43.3% reporting the same for e-mail and 52.2% for personal computer applications.

Table 3: Reported Experience Level with Computers and Related Applications

Experience level of respondents


n (%)

n (%)

n (%)

Personal computer

317 (51.3)

272 (44.1)

28 (4.6)

PC applications

294 (47.7)

254 (41.2)

68 (11.0)


350 (56.8)

253 (41.0)

14 (2.3)


269 (43.6)

260 (42.2)

87 (14.1)

Note: Response levels varied between n = 616 and n = 617.

To obtain a clearer picture of what computer-related access and experience respondents have, selected survey responses were regrouped. A Computer Access measure was created which grouped responses for access to personal computers, e-mail, Internet/Web whether at the office, lab, home, or other. That is, for each of the three computer-related functions (personal computers, e-mail, Internet/Web) a respondent could have reported access in up to four different locations (office, lab, home, other). By grouping these responses, the Computer Access value could range from 0-12. This range was coded as: "low" (0-4), "moderate" (5-8), "high" (9-12).

In the same way, grouping responses for experience levels with personal computers, computer applications, e-mail, and Internet/Web created a composite Computer Experience measure. This grouping also provided for a score of low, moderate, or high level of experience. Table 4 shows the distribution by level for each of these composite measures. The percentage reporting high level Computer Experience (7.0%) was considerably less than the report for high level Computer Access (36.7%). Similarly, relatively few respondents (8.7%) indicated a low level of Computer Access, while over 40% judged themselves to be in the low category for overall Computer Experience. Approximately one-half of the sample was in the moderate category for both Computer Access and Computer Experience.

Table 4: Composite Measures of Computer Access and Computer Experience

Reported Level


n (%)

n (%)

n (%)

n (%)

Computer Access





Computer Experience





Computer-Related Access by Age

Several relationships between age and access levels were found to be significant using the Pearson Chi-Square test. Respondents less than 50 years old indicated a higher degree of overall Computer Access (X2=12.071, df=2, p<.01). Age is also related to specific types of home access'”personal computer (X2=6.934, df=1, p<.01), e-mail (X2=16.290, df=1, p<.001), and Internet/Web (X2=9.282, df=1, p<.01). Those under 50 years were more likely to report home access for each of those types.

Computer Experience by Degree Held

With regard to Computer Experience, those with the baccalaureate and master‘s degrees were more likely to indicate a high level of experience than those with doctorates (X2=19.358, df=2, p<.001). The "high" category represented only a small part of the sample (7%), however. No other demographic measure was significant with Computer Experience.

Journal Use and Publication Record

Journal Use

Respondents were asked how often they use journals (print or electronic) and the degree to which they had published in the last five years. Journal usage is shown in Table 5. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents were active users of print journals, but only a little over one-quarter used electronic journals to that extent.

Table 5: Reported Frequency of Use of Print and Electronic Journals

Frequency of use


n (%)

n (%)

n (%)

n (%)

Print journals

75 (12.2)

85 (13.8)

455 (74.0)

615 (100.0)

Electronic journals

345 (56.1)

106 (17.2)

164 (26.7)

615 (100.0)

Note: "Low"=several times per year or not at all; "moderate"=1-2 times per semester; "active"=once per month or more.

Several significant relationships were identified with use of the Pearson Chi-Square test. One such relationship was that of print journal usage to electronic journal usage (X2=54.411, df=4, p<.001). That is, low usage of print related to low usage of electronic journals. Similarly, high usage of the one was related to high usage of the other. Not surprisingly, those that indicated greater use of journals, when responses for both print and electronic use were combined, also were more likely to have published in the past five years (X2=12.878, df=2, p<.01).

Those scoring low on Computer Experience were more likely to be active users both of print (X2=15.665, df=4, p<.01) and of electronic journals (X2=38.245, df=4, p<.001). A significant relationship (p < .05) existed also between Internet/Web access at home and "active" use of electronic journals, defined as once per month or more (X2=6.129, df=2, p<.047).

Publication Record

In terms of publication record, as shown in Table 6, only 59.2% of the respondents had published any articles in the past five years, while 34.9% of the total had published 1 to 3 articles. Only 24 of 616 respondents, or 3.9%, indicated they had published in an electronic journal.

Table 6: Articles Published in Print Journals within the Past 5 Years

Print Journal Articles Published


n (%)

1 - 3 articles
n (%)

4 - 5 articles
n (%)

More than 5 articles
n (%)

n (%)

Print journals






n = 615

An analysis of what personal characteristics (age, degree, rank, tenure-track, years taught) were related to the respondents having any publication record within the past five years yielded several significant relationships using the Pearson Chi-Square test. These included that those with the doctorate (X2=145.851, df=1, p<.001), more than 10 years teaching experience (X2=26.888, df=1, p<.001), tenure-track position (X2=66.300, df=1, p<.001), and rank of associate or full professor (X2=68.565, df=2, p<.001) all published more. Age (less than 50 years and 50 years and older) was not significant. Those with administrative appointments were more likely to publish than those with non-administrative appointments (X2=8.931, df=1, p<.01).

Those without a computer at home (10.6% of the sample) related significantly to having published in the past five years (X2=5.374, df=1, p<.05). Also, those with high scores on the composite measure of Computer Experience (7% of the sample) were less likely to have published in the past five years (X2=15.604, df=2, p<.001).

There was a significant relationship between the individual types of computer-related experience and having published any journal articles within the past five years. This included personal computer (X2=7.288, df=2, p<.05), computer-related applications (X2=19.589, df=2, p<.001), and e-mail (X2=10.063, df=2, p<.01). The relationship was not necessarily in the direction one might expect. For the group reporting a low level of computer-related experience on any of these measures, there was greater likelihood that the respondent published.

No significant relationship was found, however, between high Internet/Web experience and articles published. Nor was their any significant relationship between Total Home Access (a composite measure for home access to a personal computer, e-mail, and Internet/Web) and journal usage or publication record.

Perceptions of Journals: Quality, Credibility, Deterrents to Use

The survey asked respondents to indicate how important various journal attributes are (regardless of whether the format is print or electronic) in evaluating faculty publications for tenure/promotion at their institutions. Weighted values were assigned to each of the responses as follows: "extremely"=3; "very"=2; "some"=1; "not at all"=0. The weighted responses were then summed for each item resulting in a composite score. This was then divided by the number of respondents for that item (responses for "not certain" were not included), resulting in the Importance Index for that journal attribute. The results are shown in Table 7 with the characteristics deemed most important listed first. Not surprisingly, "peer review" received the strongest response for importance, followed by "content" and "reputation." Indexing by CINAHL, the major nursing index, was fifth in importance.

Table 7: Importance of Journal Characteristics in Evaluating Publications for Tenure/Promotion


Importance Index

1. Peer review



2. Content



3. Reputation



4. Selectivity



5. CINAHL indexing



6. Frequently cited



7. Editorial board



8. MEDLINE indexing



9. Other indexing



10. Publisher



Note: The Importance Index is based on weighting the responses for each item ("extremely"=3; "moderately"=2; "some"=1; "not at all"=0) and then dividing by the number of responses. Those responding "not certain" are not represented.

The chi-square test showed a significant relationship between publication record and the following journal characteristics: peer review (X2=51.496, df=4, p<.001), editorial board (X2=36.843, df=4, p<.001), reputation (X2=22.655, df=4, p<.001), content (X2=20.538, df=4, p<.001), selectivity (X2=13.536, df=4, p<.01), frequently cited (X2=13.383, df=4, p<.05), and publisher (X2=12.896, df=4, p<.05). That is, those that had published any articles in the past five years were more likely to indicate that those characteristics are extremely important considerations in evaluating journals in tenure/promotion reviews.

E-Journal Credibility in Tenure/Promotion Reviews

Respondents were also asked, if all other factors were equal, whether faculty publications in print and in electronic journals are accorded the same credibility in tenure/promotion reviews at their institutions. 47.6% indicated the same consideration is given, which possibly is higher than is typically perceived. Print journals were seen as being considered more credible by 51.8% of the respondents.

When credibility responses were analyzed by highest degree held, chi square results showed a significant relationship indicating that those with doctorates, as opposed to a combined group of baccalaureate and master‘s degrees, reported higher credibility given for print journals (X2=6.051, df=1, p<.05). Similarly, greater credibility of print journals was significantly related to having published a journal article in the past five years (X2=11.626, df=1, p<.01).

Deterrents to E-Journal Use

The survey asked what conditions deter use of electronic journals. These responses are shown in Table 8. A Deterrence Index figure was calculated for each item similar to the Importance Index for journal attributes in Table 7. Weighted values were assigned to the responses: "extremely"=3; "very"=2; "some"=1; "not at all"=0. The weighted responses were then summed for each item resulting in a composite score. This was then divided by the number of responses for that item (responses for "not certain" were not included), resulting in the Deterrence Index for that item as a barrier to use of electronic journals.

Table 8: Deterrents to Use of Electronic Journals


Deterrence Index

1. No library subscription



2. Technological limitations



3. Lack of awareness



4. Limited Internet access



5. No print counterpart



Note: The Deterrence Index is based on weighting the responses for each item ("extremely"=3; "moderately"=2; "some"=1; "not at all"=0) and then dividing by the number of responses. Those responding "not certain" are not represented.

Although, technological limitations are still a limiting factor, "no library subscription" and "lack of awareness" are seen as critical limitations as well. This underscores the continuing role of libraries and indexing services to enable users to identify potentially useful material and gain access to articles in journals for which they do not have personal subscriptions.

These deterrents also related significantly to other variables. For example, those respondents indicating low Computer Experience were more likely to view technical limitations (X2=6.690, df=2, p<.05) and limited Internet access (X2=9.149, df=2, p<.01) as deterrents to the use of electronic journals.

Those that have published in the last five years were more likely to find lack of a library subscription to be very or extremely detrimental (X2=7.377, df=1, p<.01), as do those with the doctorate (X2=3.925, df=1, p<.05) and those that have tenure (X2=5.413, df=1, p<.05). Possibly these individuals are more likely to have established publication records given where they are in the careers and rely regularly on their library‘s collection for their work.

Those that indicate they make little or no usage of e-journals were more likely to offer "lack of awareness" (X2=20.169, df=2, p<.001) and "no print counterpart" (X2=8.971, df=2, p<.05) as deterrents. While this is a common-sense relationship, it underscores that Internet/Web resources are invisible without finding aids or some kind of pointers to them.

Advantages/Disadvantages of Print and Electronic Journals

Respondents were given the opportunity to comment on the advantages and disadvantages they perceive with both print and electronic journals. Hundreds of opinions were offered for each journal type. Recurring themes are presented with representative comments.

Print Journals

As can be seen below, the advantages to print journals centered on their usability, especially the flexibility they offer. There was strong preference for print for reading and in the setting of one‘s choice (airplane, sofa, bathtub). There were fewer comments relating to reputation and credibility. The disadvantages mentioned highlighted those of access'”the time it takes to go to the library and the problems with library access, including the time required to obtain materials through interlibrary loan. Also, there were concerns about the cost and storage requirements and missing or mutilated issues. Less concern was voiced over the time to publication for articles.

Table 9: Themes and Comments Indicating Advantages of Print Journals

Print Advantage

Representative Comment

1. Familiarity with accessing and using print journals

"I‘ve '˜grown up‘ with print journals, and therefore love them."

2. Portability

"I can take the print journal with me wherever I go, read it on the train or bus."

3. Preference for reading print copy

"'¦I still like to have what I‘m going to read in my hand."

4. Desire not to be tied to computer to read

"'¦I get very, very tired of being on the computer all day. It‘s a pleasure to sit on my sofa and pick up a print journal and read it."

5. Not dependent on computer access or skills

"Print journals are available despite the person‘s abilities with technology."

6. Context

"'¦I also think there is a great deal of information in the appearance, organization, and overall flavor of the print journal that I miss online."

7. Scanning

"'¦you get to see several articles which may have serendipitous value'¦scanning is easier."

8. Marginal comments

"I still like to have a paper copy in my hands that I can highlight and write comments on."

9. Filing

"I cut up my journals and file articles by topic."

10. Graphical material

"Illustrations and art work are more attractive."

11. Reputation

"Print journals usually have a reputation and long history, which gives confidence in the veracity of their articles."

12. Credibility

"Perceived to be more credible; better peer review."

13. Long-term Availability

"Once '˜purchased,‘ always available."

Table 10: Themes and Comments Indicating Disadvantages of Print Journals

Print Disadvantage

Representative Comment

1. The physical library

"The need to physically go to where the journals are to use them, i.e., the library."

2. Library barriers

"Can‘t check them out; photocopying articles becomes expensive; limited library hours."

3. Missing articles/issues

"Library copy may have article torn out or copy is unavailable."

4. Reliance on interlibrary loan

"Waiting for interlibrary loan can be highly inconvenient."

5. Cost

"The cost of institutional/personal subscriptions is often very high."

6. More paper

"Contributes to the paper jungle of '˜keep vs discard‘ in one‘s files."

7. Storage

"I hate to just throw them away, yet I can‘t keep forever. Run out of space."

8. Delay in publication

"By the time they publish your thoughts'”after peer review and rewrites'”the information is OLD!!!"

Electronic Journals

Based on the comments offered, the strongest argument for electronic journals is the anytime/anywhere access. Many indicated the move to the electronic journal format is a desirable trend. Several respondents saw this as a transitional time both for the format and for users to change their patterns of information seeking.

What came through from the comments, however, was that there are many shortcomings and barriers that need to be overcome. Foremost was that many find it uncomfortable and unsatisfactory to have to sit at a computer to read an article. Typically, they print the article to regain the flexibility in reading that print copy offers. Technical problems are also a limiting factor and become time-consuming to address.

A large number of comments indicated that respondents have little awareness of what electronic journals are available for nursing and are frustrated trying to find them online or being limited by lack of subscription or per article charges. This is coupled with concern about the credibility of these titles and the quality of their peer review, if present.

Table 11: Themes and Comments Indicating Advantages of Electronic Journals

Electronic Advantage

Representative Comment

1. Access

"Access anytime, anywhere."

2. Currency

"Shorter turn-around time from submission to publication."

3. Less paper

"Less accumulation of paper."

4. Time-saver

"Can get to topic more quickly than in print."

5. Articles intact

"The article will NOT be torn out when you finally find the correct issue!"

6. Ease of use

"Easy access, easy to review, easy to assess information pertinent to your search, easy to hard copy with printer."

7. Sharing

"Forwarding the article to someone else to read."

8. Storage

"Storage is far easier. Articles of interest can be printed out for filing or stored in a folder on a disk."

9. The virtual library

"Don‘t need to physically access the library to search and print articles."
"Access to students in rural areas who would have to travel great distances to use libraries."

"More access for my online students."

10. Interlibrary loan

"'¦able to access without going thru Interlibrary Loan."

Table 12: Themes and Comments Indicating Disadvantages of Electronic Journals

Electronic Disadvantage

Representative Comment

1. Subscription

"Access is limited to subscribers."
"Immediate access not always available if library doesn‘t have a contract."

2. Cost

"Some full-text subscriptions are expensive."
"The cost!!!'”i.e., $10.00 for one journal article."

3. Available titles

"Not all desired journals are online."

4. Awareness

"Not all in one place for easy access; don‘t know about them."
"Electronic journals would be fine if I knew what was available."

5. Finding articles

"Not always easy to find the journals online. May be difficult to find the article a second time."
"If an article is not listed on MEDLINE, or to a lesser extent CINAHL or PsycINFO, I am unlikely to find it anyway."

6. Transition period

"This is the direction we are all moving anyway. We just need more time to make the shift away from paper."
"I am too busy to learn new tricks!"

7. Reading

"Difficulty of reading online for periods greater than 45 min to 1 hour."
"You have to spend more time on the computer and you are already tired of the stupid computer."
"Hard to read/see entire page; extensive use of mouse hurts my hand; already tired, both physically and visually, at end of day."

8. Technical limitations

"Lack of technical support when needed."
"Hardware, software problems'”the concept‘s fine, but a great time waster to make it fly consistently."

9. Graphical material

"Difficulty reading tables and graphics or seeing photos."

10. Network problems

"Being in an extremely rural area, it is sometimes difficult to get on the Internet due to limited local access."
"Hard to access during peak hours."

11. Browsing

"I miss the serendipitous learning that I get with flipping through a journal."

12. Credibility

"The chief problem I see is lack of credibility'¦as compared with the print journals we know and trust."

13. Peer review

"Quality of peer review for those that do not have print journal counterparts."
"Not real clear which are peer-reviewed and which are not."

14. Tenure decisions

"Unsure of how it counts in tenure process thus far and reputation and reach of journals is not as well known."

15. Permanence

"Uncertainty about future disposition of the material-'”will it be available years from now?"

16. Citing

"Not cited much by others'”even in informatics circles."

17. Misuse

"As an author, the ease with which someone could misappropriate text because of electronic format."

18. Quality

"The articles I have read thus far in online journals have not been of high quality. They would not have been accepted for publication in a '˜print journal.‘"


The sample, by virtue of the way it was drawn, was biased. The e-mail invitation to participate and the use of a Web survey favored responses from those with computer and Internet access and at least a modest level of comfort using the technology. It is unlikely the infrequent or non-computer user is represented.

The decision to provide respondents with complete anonymity resulted in not knowing which institutions were represented, either the unique number or by type. Institutional type would have been addressed if more respondents could have answered the survey item calling for the Carnegie classification of their institution.

Nor was it possible to determine response rate. The 516 schools of nursing contacted would, of course, have a combined faculty numbering in the thousands. The response level of 619, then, must be seen as providing quite a limited sample. Relying on deans to forward the invitation to participate to their faculty was potentially problematic. It presumed deans could give time to this. Also it required that they were e-mail users and sufficiently comfortable with the technology and had the capability to forward the message to their faculty. In fact, it is possible that in many cases not all of these pieces were in place to allow the invitation to go forward.


Despite the limitations, the survey results provide a snapshot in time of how this group of faculty perceive journal quality and their use of both print and electronic journals. Additionally, the results indicate the level of computer access and experience of this group and some of the relationships present among these various factors.


The sample was equally divided between those under 50 years and those 50 and older. Age was a significant factor only for more overall Computer Access and specifically for home access. Having this level of access did not relate, however, to this group having a higher level of computer experience. Possibly the greater likelihood for home access in the younger group was due to providing home access for school-age children and not necessarily for their own use.

Academic Degree

The only relationship between academic degree and any of the computer-related items was that those with a bachelor‘s or master‘s degree as their highest degree were more likely to indicate they were highly experienced with regard to computers. However, relatively few were in this "high" category on Computer Experience (7% of the total).

Publication Record

Degree did make a difference with regard to publication record. Those with the Ph.D. were more likely to have published in the last 5 years. This was also true of those with more than 10 years teaching experience, rank of Associate or Full Professor, and an administrative appointment. All of these factors indicate senior, more established faculty are more likely to be engaged in scholarly activity. No home computer (10% of the sample) also related to having published in the past 5 years. This suggests that senior faculty rely on institutional computer resources or on others to do their word processing. In fact there was a relationship between those with a low level of Computer Experience and having a publication record.

Computer Access and Experience

Overall the significant relationships with any of the computer access or computer experience measures were with small segments of the sample. More telling is the descriptive profile that emerged. The respondents quite uniformly have computer access at work (97%), as do many at home (90%). In fact, only 8.7% scored "low" in the overall Computer Access measure. This contrasts markedly with those scoring "low" in the overall Computer Experience measure (40.0%). This indicates there are many with a computer who are at a basic level of use and possibly would benefit from some training support. E-mail had the largest representation on a specific measure of "low" experience.

Journal Use

With regard to journal use, there was active use of print journals by 74% of respondents and of electronic journals by only 26.7%. Two significant relationships were of interest here. Active electronic journal use related to low Computer Experience and having published in the past 5 years. Again, based on relationships discussed earlier, the group represented here is likely to be senior faculty. Also, active users of one format are active users of the other, suggesting that active information seeking is a habitual activity that more easily crosses format types and is not necessarily limited by low level of computer experience.

Journal Characteristics and Tenure/Promotion Decisions

Clearly, the journal characteristics of perceived importance for promotion and tenure decisions center around the substance of the articles and the quality control exercised in selection. The characteristics given the highest rating were: peer review, content, reputation, and selectivity. For those who had published in the last five years, there was a significant relationship with all the characteristics suggested in the survey except for the three indexing choices.

There was surprisingly little difference between those that believed articles in electronic journals were given the same weight as those in print journals (47.6%), compared with those who feel print is considered to be more credible (51.8%).This assumed that all other factors were equal.

There was surprisingly little difference between those that believed articles in electronic journals were given the same weight as those in print journals (47.6%), compared with those who feel print is considered to be more credible (51.8%).

Those with the Ph.D. and who had published in the last 5 years were more likely to believe print is held to be more credible.

Deterrents to Use of Electronic Journals

As seen by both the quantitative and qualitative data, respondents indicate use of electronic journals is adversely affected by lack of access to needed titles, being unaware of what is available, frustration with reading on the monitor screen, and technical problems. Comments indicated concern with quality of content and peer review also.


The survey results underscore the importance of journals to nursing faculty. Three-quarters of the sample considered themselves to be active users. For tenure and promotion decisions, journals are valued that have established themselves as providing quality content filtered through a peer review process. There is some lack of confidence that these qualities are as uniformly present in electronic journals.

The survey results underscore the importance of journals to nursing faculty. Three-quarters of the sample considered themselves to be active users.

Not surprisingly, those that publish (in this case have a publication record from the past 5 years) were more likely to be active journal users, whether of print or electronic. They were also more likely to value the various journal measures relating to quality. Neither computer access nor experience related to journal use or publication record. The sole exception was those who had Web access at home were more likely to be active users of electronic journals.

Given this reliance on nursing journals by most nursing faculty, and particularly by those who publish, the trend toward more electronic journals is an important one to weigh. The qualitative responses for the disadvantages of electronic journals were telling. Computer access and experience were factors for many.

The electronic publishing industry must address the physical discomfort many now experience in trying to read an extensive amount of material on a computer monitor.

Electronic journal use depends on having adequate and reliable computers and access, as well as the necessary personal knowledge to find and use these titles effectively. An ongoing program of training will be needed for faculty (and students) to gain and maintain necessary skills. The electronic publishing industry must address the physical discomfort many now experience in trying to read an extensive amount of material on a computer monitor.

And as seen by the results, electronic journals cannot be used if users lack awareness of their existence or the means of validated access to them. Libraries and librarians are a big piece of the puzzle. Steps must be taken by information professionals to insure that the traditional finding tools work for electronic journal titles. This includes cataloging records in the library‘s online catalog with direct links to the electronic text, a means of user authentication when accessing from offsite, coverage by the major indexing/abstracting services, and promotion by the library to increase user awareness.

This is a time of transition. Nursing faculty are dealing with an increasingly computer-reliant work environment. Scholarly publishing is undergoing a shift from print to electronic journals. Information technology and the Internet continue to develop and expand their reach. And libraries and librarians are seeking to incorporate electronic resources and related services to support faculty and students. All of these elements need to come together to ensure a future with a robust scholarly communication network for the nursing community.


My sincere appreciation to Susan Jones, Ph.D., R.N. F.A.A.N, College of Nursing, Kent State University, for her advice and counsel at many stages of this project.


Barbara F. Schloman, Ph.D., AHIP

Barbara F. Schloman, Ph.D., AHIP, is a health sciences librarian who serves as the Information Resources Editor of the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. She is interested in the use of the nursing literature by nursing students and faculty and the role librarians can play to support the information-seeking activities of these users. She is Director, Library Information Services, and Professor, Libraries & Media Services, Kent State University.

© 2001 Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
Article published  April 1, 2001


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Citation: Schloman, Barbara F. (April 1, 2001) "Nursing Faculty and Scholarly Publishing: Survey of Perceptions" Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 6 No. 2. Available: