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close this bookAfrican Journals - An Evaluation of the Use of African-published Journals in African Universities - Evaluating Impact - Education Research Paper No. 36 (DFID, 1999, 63 p.)
View the documentRationale for the research
View the documentAims and objectives
View the documentMethodology
Open this folder and view contentsData collection
Open this folder and view contentsCollection of data
View the documentProblems and limitations


Since the introduction of performance measurement in the evaluation of library services, a number of investigations have been attempted to determine the best method of evaluation of journal use and impact. However it has proved difficult to devise one satisfactory method. Journals taken from the library shelves for reading can be counted prior to re-shelving. This shows use but not the reasons for use. Information can be gathered from the citations given in student projects, postgraduate theses and the publications of academic staff. This will reveal journal articles that have been consulted; but often only quotations and not everything consulted are cited; in addition the value of a journal article to a piece of research may be inspirational rather than directly related. Finally questionnaires and interviews can be used to find out why journals are read, which are the most useful and how they might be more useful. Data gathered by one method complements and amplifies that gathered by other methods. Therefore it was decided to use a combination of all three methods in this survey.

Although journal collections in African universities have deteriorated over the last fifteen years, many libraries have more recently benefited from schemes donating journals titles or money to purchase journals from the West. Since 1994, a number of university libraries in Anglophone Africa have had access to titles published in the rest of Africa through the AJDP scheme. Because of their colonial past, all these libraries have been subject to the same historical, political and cultural factors with regard to education. It was therefore decided to undertake the survey in these universities and that a sample of two would achieve the necessary indicative results on journal use.

Because of financial and time considerations, it would not be possible to interview all academic staff in each of the universities. Yet to sample staff over all faculties would not provide reliable data on journal use, as research activities vary so much from person to person. It was therefore decided to aim at interviewing the complete population (up to a maximum of fifty in two faculties in each university), gathering in depth data from four broad subject areas. Again it was not feasible to record the use of journals in the libraries over a whole year. Instead it was decided to carry out hourly counts and analysis during one mid-semester week in each library.

Single surveys of journal use and impact may produce data which is peculiar to a particular time and group of people but which is not valid in general. There is a big turnover of staff in African universities. Research itself is a long and on-going process. So that conclusions were more reliable and any trends in journal use could be determined, it was decided to carry out identical surveys over a three-year period.

As far as personnel were concerned, it would be necessary for local researchers to undertake the collection of data on journal use. Such expertise is most easily available in universities which house departments of library and information studies. It would then also be possible to integrate the collection of data into student projects. Additionally, it would be necessary to appoint a co-ordinator, who would design common instruments for data collection, supervise the local researchers, analyze data submitted and write the interim and final reports.

The methodology chosen was therefore:

In two African universities and repeated at yearly intervals over a period of three years

· an hourly count and identification (title, volume, number, date) of journals read in the university library over a one week mid-semester period;

· structured interviews with all academic staff within two faculties in each university to discuss their use of journals, both African and non-African, in teaching and research;

· an annual analysis of journal citations given in the undergraduate projects, postgraduate theses and academic staff publications (conference papers, research reports, journals articles, books) from the four chosen faculties;

· interim reports at the end of each year;

· a meeting of researchers to discuss the content of the final report;

· a final report containing findings over the three year period, conclusions and recommendations.