Monday, 17 March 2014

Some thoughts on a citation classic

Whenever I try to explain what a citation classic is it this image that comes to mind.

[For any of you that are unfamiliar with Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe and Wine, I suggest a listen on youtube]

Very few British people are unfamiliar with this song. I also dare to say that any ‘Best Christmas Songs Ever’ compilation album will lose credibility if Cliff’s song isn’t there. Like it or not, it’s a classic.

At this point I return to the citation.

When researching a thing, the literature review process will include the possibility of the thing you are researching including citation classic(s). In other words, scholarly materials that are so often cited that you may lose credibility for not having them on your references list. It actually does not matter if you like/agree with the citation classic or not. It is about respecting its constructed position because peers will be expecting it there. Not having a citation classic could be harmful so if an aura of power surrounds the citation classic, bung it in. How you cite it can be up to you.

To demonstrate (please click on images):

Articles with cocitation as Topic according to Web of Science (March 2014)

What I have done in Web of Science is a topic search (so that means it is somewhere in the title, abstract or keywords) for the word cocitation (which is the thing I am researching) and ranked results according to the number of citations. Henry Small’s paper on cocitation is at the top which makes me think it is a hugely influential paper.

I decided to be a bit of a geek and perform a citation analysis of the 592 papers itself. I noticed the following:

What the list above tells me is that Small’s paper is at the top of this tree as well (40% of the sample citing it is pretty darn strong). There was also overlap between both lists and I became more informed about Authors in this field.

At this point I will confess that by having some knowledge with the subject matter of cocitation, I already knew that Small (1973) was the star at the top of the tree. Most of us looking up a thing will have some knowledge (whether it be tacit or formal) and the citation classic is not a hard thing to work out under these circumstances.

It is however much trickier to work out when entering a domain where your knowledge is somewhat hazy.

This time I am going to go to Google Scholar and write (as phrases) two references plus the author names. I do this because I am interested in this particular references pattern plus my belief that the two references encapsulate the thing I want to research

The screen grab shows 6 of the 78 results. The third result (Luukkonen, 1997) is on the money for what I wanted to look up. Luukkonen (1997) is not the most cited paper out of my retrieved sample (it is the 11th most cited thing out of the retrieved 78) but the most accurate to my particular interest.

Thus, I have constructed a search to create what I interpret as the current citation classic to my particular interest (that being papers on citation analysis that place emphasis on Latour’s Science in action as well as cite Gilbert’s paper that I consider significant).

In short, ask yourself if there are citation classics in relation to your interest and consider their inclusion. Also consider what techniques (like those suggested here) could help you locate them.