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Research Skills: Citation Analysis and Tracking

A step-by-step approach to ensure that you possess the key skills required to find, retrieve and evaluate information on your research topic.

Citation Analysis and Tracking

A citation can be described as a written reference to a specific work or portion of a work. The work referred to could be a book, an article, a dissertation, a report, or a musical composition that has been produced or created by a particular author, editor, or composer.

A citation clearly identifies the work in which the passage is to be found. A citation is therefore a short bibliographic note which gives recognition to a source of information or of a quoted passage. Adapted from the Free Dictionary by Farlex (2010:1).

Citation analysis is facilitated by citation resources and refers to the examination of the frequency and pattern of citations (or references) in scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles and books. Citation analysis uses citations in scholarly works to establish links to other works, or other researchers. Research patterns and trends can thus be identified, as well as the currency of research. The frequency with which a work is cited is usually considered a measure of its importance in the literature of the field (Reitz, 2004:142).

In the study by Vucovich, Baker & Smith (2008:63), participating authors Egghe and Rossouw suggest that citation counts can be based on the following assumptions:

  • if an article is cited by an author, it implies the document was used
  • the merit (impact or significance) of the article is reflected by the citation
  • it is implied that the references are derived from the best literature on the topic
  • the content of the articles being cited is indeed related to the topic of the article

Citation resources can be described as any print, electronic or web-based resources which include citations (or references) and citation analysis tools for the purpose of determining citation trends. Examples of citation resources are databases such as Web of Science, Scopus, and Chemical Abstracts. Google Scholar is also considered an effective tool to use when sourcing citation references.

Altmetrics is the study and use of scholarly impact measures based on activity in online tools and environments. Digital Scholarship has released the Altmetrics Bibliography, which includes over 50 selected English-language articals and technical reports that are useful in understanding altmetrics.