You are here


Press room

Beyond search: Enabling serendipity in research discovery

February 1, 2016

Los Angeles, CA- Researchers often find and retrieve the content they need through carefully planned searches -- but what about less structured, unexpected instances of scholarly discovery? A new two-part white paper out today by SAGE Publishing explores the common researcher experiences that lead to “chance” discoveries as well as opportunities for information professionals to support and encourage serendipity in academic research.

“In these papers, we share insights into an often overlooked aspect of the scholarly information journey–serendipitous discovery,” commented Lettie Conrad, Executive Manager of Product Analysis at SAGE Publishing. “These reports tell the story of a user-centered research and development project here at SAGE, which we believe will facilitate surprising new connections between content and concepts for SAGE readers.” 

The first paper discusses findings from a global survey of 239 students and faculty combined with user experience research and interviews with publishing experts and technology suppliers, alongside an in-depth review of relevant literature. White paper authors Lettie Conrad and Alan Maloney found:

  • 68% of faculty members and 70% of undergraduates rated searching library databases as “very important” when discovering new scholarly information—more important than any other resource.
  • When it comes to unplanned discovery, in general, researchers prefer simply stumbling on interesting, relevant content within the course of their research as opposed to having materials recommended to them by peers or based on popularity.
  • 78% undergraduates and 91% of faculty are inclined to click on recommendation links in the course of their online research, especially where links are directly relevant to their task at hand.
  • Increasingly, publishers are promoting content recommendations as a natural extension of their mission to disseminate scholarly research and knowledge, often with the aid of semantic technologies.
  • Academic content presents special challenges in discovery and is often more amenable to serendipitous discovery that focuses on the content itself, as well as its conceptual connections to other literature, rather than approaches based on user behavior.
  • Information providers of all kinds are going beyond discovery and focusing on helping users to act more quickly and more meaningfully on the information that they encounter.

Written by Alan Maloney, Senior Product Analyst of Taxonomy and Semantic Technology at SAGE Publishing, the second paper details how this new research led to the development of SAGE Recommends, a new discovery tool launched in December 2015. Using a content-based approach to connect concepts as well as a new SAGE-developed social science thesaurus, SAGE Recommends makes connections between the content in a variety of formats, explains the connections, and subtly recommends relevant research material. As Alan explains, “SAGE Recommends is the first output of SAGE’s efforts over the last couple of years to develop better content intelligence, and to properly map and understand the disciplines in which we publish. This paper sets out how we have used this new knowledge and area of technical competence to make scholarly and educational materials more discoverable, to encourage new directions in research, and to delight our users.”

“The research reported in this paper has deepened our understanding of our readers and our appreciation for the information needs they bring along when visiting SAGE’s online resources,” said Martha Sedgwick, Executive Director of Product Management at SAGE Publishing. “An exciting result of this work has been the SAGE Recommends feature, which enables a serendipitous discovery experience across all of SAGE content platforms, leading students and faculty to uncover relationships between topics across the social science disciplines and across a range of content types.”

The findings of this study will be discussed in a free webinar taking place on Tuesday, February 16 at 11am EST. Moderated by InfoDOCKET’s Gary Price. To register, please click here.

 # # #

Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 900 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. A growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne.

Contact (media inquiries only)

Yearly archive
2020 (12)
2019 (45)
2018 (83)
2017 (97)
2016 (133)
2015 (150)
2014 (145)