I'm looking for information on the criteria that could be employed in the development of a social sciences (including economics) academic journal open access website. What visible (front-end) functions do academics prefer to use when looking up research content on an academic journal website?

For example:

  1. Listings by year, author, publication type.
  2. Search that allows you to modify the variables ("advanced search"), vs. search that lets you narrow down the results after a basic search ("faceted search").
  3. What criteria do you usually (or would like to) use to narrow down search results?
  4. Any examples of research content (academic journal) websites that work well?
  5. Any functions that you wish were available to make searching for research content easier?

Background: I'm a communications officer with a research institute that publishes its own research via its own website. The website was redeveloped two years ago, with the aim of making the content more relevant, but lost some functions more relevant to academics in the process. In an effort to redress this I would like to establish some criteria for evaluating functions that are needed in an academic journal website.

  • 3
    I prefer to use Google to search for papers. So the number 1 criterion is that your website should be indexed by search engines with direct links to papers.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 1:19
  • 1
    Please, please, please, make the submission apparatus usable! Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:22
  • 3
    @Penanghill The point I want to make is that it's important that the basic stuff works well and you should focus on that before looking into advanced features.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:44
  • 1
    I've created a chat room to discuss the on hold status of this question: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/71901/…
    – Penanghill
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 3:47
  • 1
    Voting to leave this closed as it is a poll.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


I don't know about others (also I'm in mathematics where things might be different), but I almost exclusively use journal websites as follows:

  1. Type the title of the paper and the authors in a search engine;
  2. Click on the journal link if it appears;
  3. (Optional) Log into my institutional account through something like Shibboleth or OpenAthens;
  4. Download the PDF and read it.

My other use (in case I'm not looking for a specific paper) consists of typing keywords in an popular scholarly search engine and then proceeding from step 2.

If I encounter any hindrance in this process I give up and download the arXiv version (even though I typically prefer the journal version in case I need to make a precise citation...). So:

  1. Have your papers indexed by popular search engines. This includes authors, keywords, abstracts.
    • 1bis: If your journal is in mathematics, get it indexed in MathSciNet if you can. If it's not in mathematics, I believe there are other, subject-specific databases.
  2. If the papers are not open access, let the reader access them easily. If possible, match the reader's IP to the university and automatically allow access to readers from subscribed universities. Otherwise, do not make the reader jump through hoops to be able to login and read it.This includes showing the reader a "403 Forbidden" page, forcing the reader to go back, search the tiny "Login" link and sift through a lift of 10,000 universities before finding the correct one.
  3. Let the reader download a PDF without any obstacle. None of that fancy-schmancy web-based PDF viewers laced with DRMs.
  • 1
    I'm not sure if I really answered the question in the body of your post, but I answered the question in the title, at least from my point of view.
    – user9646
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 14:52
  • 2
    Three additional things that bug me: Don't clutter the front page with idiotic things like the most down-loaded paper; make it very easy to find ALL back volumes (especially in some fields, like mathematics, the likelihood that something you're interested in just happens to be in the current issue is rather small); once one is in the archived volumes/issues section make sure there are clearly labeled buttons for going to the previous issue and to the next issue. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:05
  • @NajibIdrissi you did answer the question, thanks! Note - the content does not require any login or institutional access. (added this to the question)
    – Penanghill
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 22:32

I would also not worry about search functionality (as you probably can't beat other engines in the long run), but I one more point:

Besides making the access to the pdf easy you should also

make access to a correct and complete bibtex entry easy.

  • 2
    +1 An easy to use "export citation" feature is very useful. But please don't download a .bib file. I want to copy and paste the bibtex.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:49

One more thing: provide access to the current and most recent issue's tables of contents and abstracts through an rss (or atom) feed. This way, readers can stay up to date by subscribing to the feed using their favorite feed reader.

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