Maria B. J. Chun, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Aloha! For this issue, we are a little unorthodox and are presenting an article by our Associate Editor, David Jackson. I have edited the article, which presents a description of the survey and a summary of results. Because of all the recent discussion on the SCRA listserv regarding TCP recently, I felt that this would be an appropriate location to present the article. The discussion continues and no decisions had or have been made regarding the format of TCP (e.g., online versus hard copy, a combination of both).
Feedback from The Community Psychologist Readers 2010
David S. Jackson
The Fall 2009 issue of TCP marked not only the transition of editorial personnel, but it also heralded the beginning of what could potentially be perceived as a movement toward modernizing SCRA's official newsletter and document of record. When the new editorial team was recruited, one of the tasks assigned was to determine whether or to what degree TCP would "go green" or be produced electronically. For example, would TCP only be available online or would parts of it still be produced as hard copy? Or would there be a hybrid with possibly a shorter version in print and the "full" version only in electronic format? Or would TCP remain "as is" and continue to be printed and mailed through the postal service? Given the diversity of the SCRA membership, such a decision clearly cannot be made lightly. Therefore, the current editorial team, in consultation with the Immediate Past-President, President, President- Elect, and Chair of the Publications Committee, developed a survey to obtain feedback from TCP readers to enhance the usefulness of the publication and guide the management of it through changes in technology and budgets.
The Editor of TCP mentioned the upcoming survey in her Fall 2009 column. Shortly thereafter, all members of the SCRA listserv were sent an email on February 22, 2010 requesting participation in the survey, and a reminder email was also sent on March 4, 2010. Data was collected online from February 22 to March 15, 2010.
The survey consisted of 30 items. These included items that assessed basic SCRA membership, TCP subscription, and employment status information. Most of the survey items requested feedback on aspects of TCP including accessibility, visual appeal, length, and content. Respondents could also provide suggestions for improvement through an open-ended response item.
Eighty-one readers responded, which is a response rate of 9.0% (based on the number of SCRA members at that time), which is likely not representative of TCP readership. And, because the SCRA membership list may have been incomplete during the transition to SCRA's new management company, we cannot be completely certain that all readers received the survey. A breakdown by SCRA membership status includes 49.4% regular members, 33.3% student members, and 17.3% fellows. Respondents' primary work settings included educational settings (73.8%), non-profit organizations (8.8%), for-profit organizations (2.5%), government institutions (2.5%), and others (12.5%; which includes retiree, research institutions, independent, and a mix of community settings). Almost all respondents (93.8%) indicated that they had a subscription to TCP, and 88.8% received it in hard copy format.
With regard to accessing TCP, being provided an electronic copy was preferred by the largest number of respondents (63%). However, considerable proportions of respondents also wanted to have a hard copy (53%) and to access the publication online (48%). Respondents were able to select more than one method of accessing TCP, and it is evident that many preferred having it available in multiple formats (see Table 1). When asked to choose the primary purpose of TCP, the largest proportion of respondents felt that it should be more geared toward being a newsletter (33%). A little more than one-fourth felt that the publication should have some "other" purpose, with a majority of these respondents indicating that TCP should serve a variety of purposes, including a combination of a newsletter and a quasi-journal geared toward both first-time and non- academic authors. Almost one-fifth were "unsure" about what the purpose of TCP should be (see Table 1).
Table 2 reveals that, overall, respondents rated various aspects of TCP's material format and ease of reading as more positive than negative, with mean scores all above 2.5 (on a scale of 1 to 4). Areas that had a mean score of less than 3.0 (rating of "good"), which may indicate more "room for improvement," included visual appeal of the different aspects of color scheme, column formatting, images, and tables and figures. A vast majority felt that the length of each issue and particular columns were "just right."
As far as TCP content, mean scores indicate that on average, respondents agreed that 1) TCP's topics are reflective of community psychology's mission, 2) the topics are interesting, 3) the articles are helpful in their work, 4) contributors reflect the diversity of community psychology, and 5) the writing style is accessible to all types of readers. For future issues, most respondents believed it would be helpful for TCP to add a column on job announcements, provide other career type information, and have links to the SCRA website for more detailed information about the articles. When asked whether stricter word limits should be used for articles, a larger proportion of respondents disagreed than agreed.
More in-depth feedback for improving TCP was gathered through an open-ended item. However, a broad range of feedback was given and there was little consensus on areas that should be improved. For example, one respondent advocated for shorter issues while one advocated for longer issues; also, two respondents preferred TCP fulfilling mixed purposes (newsletter and quasi-journal) while one suggested it being only a newsletter and splitting off a new peer-reviewed community practitioner journal.Overall, relatively few open-ended responses were provided. An attempt at summarizing this feedback (with frequency of responses) is given below:
- Have electronic or online access more easily available (4) (some say current online version not very usable)
- Have online job announcements (3)
- Include more commentaries, dialogues and debates on topics (3)
- Present it more like a magazine (more readable, more spacing, thinner paper) (3)
- Include more practice- related articles (2)
- Keep hard copy (2)
- Increase range of areas covered (1)
- Include more prevention-related topics (1)
- Have more themed issues (1)
- Include more box headings (1)
- Include an index of web resources (1)
It appears that respondents were mostly satisfied with TCP's current content. A majority felt that TCP's topics reflect community psychology's mission and diversity, are interesting and useful, and use a writing style that is accessible to all readers. However, suggestions were made to include job announcements and other career- type information to further increase the publication's usefulness for readers. A few respondents suggested including more commentaries, dialogues, and/or debates to supplement the content. While two individuals suggested having more practice-related articles, one individual each suggested increasing the range of areas covered, having more prevention-related topics, and including an index of web resources.
Respondents did not favor putting stricter word limits on articles. This preference may help facilitate the publication's move toward placing more of its content online, which would allow a sufficient length for columns while minimizing distribution (printing and mailing) costs. This possibility is discussed further in the next section.
Overall, respondents preferred to have different ways of accessing TCP, including electronic/online versions. As for accessing full issues of TCP, most respondents preferred to have an electronic copy. Thus, it is important to continue to provide the full TCP issues that are currently available from the SCRA website. However, its current form might benefit from some modification to be more user- friendly, as one respondent stated:
"It would be great to be able to access individual articles online, instead of having to retrieve a PDF of the full issue, and find the article in question, which is sometimes spread out on non-contiguous pages."
In addition, respondents preferred to have specific types of content online, which could supplement the issue. One type could be more detailed article content for lengthier and substantive articles. Examples may include additional tables and figures, appendices, more detailed analyses of research, resources for readers, etc. As mentioned, respondents did not favor limiting article length, so including some of the article content online is one solution.
"If costs become an issue, then we need to prioritize objectives for TCP. However, moving partly or fully online would help cut costs, and I would favor doing that first. Also, if needed, some of the money from the enhanced AJCP contract should go to supporting the current or even an enhanced TCP!"
"...Links to the SCRA website are a great idea! Not just for tables/images, but also for ongoing discussion on blogs, references to materials or resources on the website, etc."
Another type could be job-related information. Respondents strongly favored the inclusion of career-type information, and topics such as career preparation, job hunting tips, etc., could be included more frequently in TCP issues. However, time-sensitive material such as job announcements may be better suited to an online format, such as on the SCRA website.
"Adding a column for job announcements would be good IF TCP goes online so announcements would be timely..."
"My reaction to the idea of job announcements is that TCP is published quarterly, and announcements may be out of date by the time they reach readers. I suggest putting job announcements on the SCRA website."
A third type of content that was suggested, which may be more suitable online, is in the form of discussions, debates, and dialogues. This would allow for a more interactive environment than is possible with the current TCP format. While forums and blogs are available on the SCRA website, it may help to provide links within TCP to guide readers toward interactive sessions related to specific TCP columns or articles that may be available online.
"In terms of formats, I tend to like debates and dialogues on key issues of the day-TCP would be a good place for more of these."
"The TCP is a great forum for practice related articles and discussions."
Based on the results of this survey, it appears that having a mix of content would best serve readers' interests. Specifically, respondents preferred both newsletter-type content and journal-type content. While this is typically the kind of mix that TCP has been offering, such feedback from readers is valuable in continuing to ensure that the publication is fulfilling readers' needs.
Respondents indicated a preference for increasing the visual appeal of the publication. In particular, TCP should improve the attractiveness of the color scheme, column formatting, images, and tables and figures. Readers have also expressed that TCP can be difficult to read and is text-heavy, and it could benefit from more spacing and attention-getters such as box headings/ call-outs. Such feedback may point to the development of a publication that has more of a magazine-type feel. Of course, cost will play a significant role in the extent to which all of these suggestions can be incorporated.
"I don't like the small type with no spacing; I want to read TCP like a magazine but I absolutely can't..."
"re: paper quality--I think we could go for "lesser" quality, like thinner paper. Wouldn't that reduce the cost?"
"Require authors to use less jargon so that it is even more accessible to be read by a wider audience."
"I am not sure why, but there is something about the layout that makes the TCP a little difficult to read."
Although the response rate for the TCP Reader Survey was low, respondents provided valuable suggestions for improving the usefulness of TCP. Overall, respondents were satisfied with its current content, but provided suggestions for adding specific content such as more career-type information. Respondents also preferred having the publication available in multiple formats (hard copy and electronic/online versions) and suggested specific types of content that would be more beneficial being online. Results also seem to suggest that TCP should continue to include a mix of newsletter-type content and journal-type content. Finally, TCP has some "room for improvement" in its visual appeal, and some modifications toward a more magazine-type feel may help meet the needs of its readers.
It is important to emphasize that no decisions have been made regarding the future format of TCP. As documented in a recent SCRA listserv discussion, there are varying viewpoints regarding TCP's content and format, and more feedback and input needs to be sought. The current editorial team has two years to be able to assist with whatever format or formats the Executive Committee (with feedback from the readership) decides would increase the accessibility, readability, and value of TCP to all SCRA members.