About Citation Analysis:
Citations: What, when, how…..

When researchers write a paper for publication, they refer to, or cite, the work of others in their text and list the citations in a bibliography.  Researchers cite the work of others for a variety of reasons.  Often they are acknowledging some kind of intellectual debt or contribution. 

What are some other reasons that an article might be cited?  Are they all positive?

Because of this relationship, the number of times a work is cited by others has become an indicator of the value of research.  This assumption is the basis for the practice of citation analysis.  Citation tools (described more fully in the next section) are usually literature databases that track citations and bibliographies and articles.

Eugene Garfield introduced the concept of citation analysis in the 1950s, and was especially interested in how citation patterns could help one trace the development of scientific ideas.  This characteristic of citations makes them useful in researching the literature on a topic. 

We are all familiar with the practice of looking at an article’s bibliography to find relevant papers.  When citation data is collected it not only lets a searcher look for earlier publications, but enables one to follow the development of research forward in time by looking at papers that refer back to a specific article.  This network of relationships between authors, papers, and ideas is a valuable adjunct to traditional literature searching.

Citation data is useful in researching a topic, but citation data is also used to evaluate the quality or impact of a specific paper, researcher, and even the department or institution where the research was done.   Using citation data in this way has generated a great deal of controversy, which we will explore next.

NEXT: Citations & Assessment