Survey Methodology

This post is in reference to a survey given in May 2018. Other information will be disseminated in subsequent blog posts.

Survey Goal

Learn from Penn faculty, staff, and graduate students about how they create, disseminate, and reuse scholarly works in anticipation of changes to library services and platforms for scholarly communication.


Survey design

The survey was drafted by the beprexit taskforce user research team in Qualtrics and tested by administrators, faculty, and librarians, whose feedback was incorporated in the final survey. The Office of Research was also consulted.

The survey consisted of 50 questions in 4 parts: Section 1 asked basic demographic questions; Section 2 asked about use of Penn’s institutional repository, ScholarlyCommons; Section 3 asked about general scholarly communications/digital scholarship practices and related library services; and Section 4 asked users if they would be willing to be interviewed or recommend colleagues to take the survey.

The survey employed liberal use of skip logic, so the majority of participants would only answer a fraction of the 50 total questions. The survey team estimated that most would complete the survey in 10-20 minutes, which appeared to be an accurate estimation.

There were 4 required questions:

  1. The participant had to be a member of the Penn community and over 18 years of age.
  2. Status (tenured faculty, staff, graduate student, etc.)
  3. School affiliation(s)
  4. Willingness to be interviewed (yes/no)
    1. If yes, the participant was required to give their name and email for follow up

No other questions were required, but participants were notified if they did not answer a question before advancing to the next page of the survey.


Survey distribution

The survey was distributed in 3 waves: first to ScholarlyCommons administrators, followed by librarians and graduate students, and, finally, to a selection of 330 faculty. The faculty selection consisted of 5 randomly selected faculty from each department as well as any faculty members who have deposited their works in ScholarlyCommons through Faculty Assisted Submission services. The survey was sent out to an unknown number of listservs. Participants were asked to recommend up to 5 colleagues to take the survey, who were then contacted by the beprexit team. All were contacted via semi-personalized emails: the first round came from the Vice Provost and Director of Libraries, and subsequent recommendation emails came from a librarian. The survey was also distributed by the Office of Research and through a few internal newsletters, such as GAPSA (Graduate and Professional Students Association).


Other notes on the survey

This was not a representative sample of the Penn population but did provide more voices than the Penn Libraries is used to hearing. The Penn Libraries team are not asserting the scientific accuracy of these results, but are using them to learn about the community. The survey was skewed toward emerging and digital publishing practices, as this is the most pressing need/goal at the moment, so participants were not asked to answer as many questions about the value of traditional publishing.

Penn Libraries is presuming bias in the responses in that those who participated in the survey are likely going to have some interest in the future of the Penn Libraries and in contributing to that future. It is notable, however,  that about 58% of respondents had never seen or heard of ScholarlyCommons prior to taking the survey, and an additional 24% had heard of ScholarlyCommons but never used it.


7 thoughts on “Survey Methodology

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