Which Factors Impact An Article’s Level of Citations?

[We’re pleased to welcome Anne-Wil Harzing, Professor of International Management at Middlesex University, UK. She has published nearly 100 refereed journals articles and books/book chapters and has been listed on Thomson Reuter’s Essential Science Indicators top 1% most cited academics in Economics & Business worldwide since 2007. Below, Harzing comments on a study published in the Journal of Management Education, entitled,”Identifying Research Topic Development in Business and Management Education Research Using Legitimation Code Theory.” From Harzing:]

What makes an article highly cited and why does it matter for academic evaluation?

I was recently asked to write a commentary on Arbaugh, Fornaciari and Hwang (2016) article “Identifying Research Topic Development in Business and Management Education Research Using Legitimation Code Theory”. The authors use citation analysis – with Google Scholar as their source of citation data – to track the development of Business and Management Education research by studying the field’s 100 most highly cited articles.

Factors influencing an article’s level of citations:

In their article, the authors distinguish several factors that might impact on an article’s levJME_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgel of citations: the topic it addresses, the profile of the author(s) who wrote it and the prominence of the journal that the article is published in.

Although these three factors might seem rather intuitive, and the authors certainly are not the first to identify them, there is a surprising dearth of studies in the bibliometrics literature that attempt to disentangle the relative impact of these factors on citation outcomes.

Why does it matter for academic evaluation?

If citation levels of individual articles are determined more by what is published (topic) and who publishes it (author) rather than by where it is published (journal), this would provide clear evidence that the frequently used practice of employing the ISI journal impact factor to evaluate individual articles or authors is inappropriate.

Our regression analysis shows that, when all factors are taken into account at the same time, it is what is published (topic) and who has published it (author) that have the largest impact on citations, not where it is published (journal).

Hence, the commonly used practice of using the prestige of a journal – oftentimes operationalized as the ISI journal impact factor – as a proxy for (citation) impact is clearly not appropriate for the field of Business and Management Education. It is thus rightly condemned by San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment and should not be used in academic evaluation.

Notes:

Harzing maintains an extensive website (www.harzing.com) with resources for international management and academic publishing, including the Journal Quality List and Publish or Perish, a software program that retrieves and analyzes academic citations.  Anne-Wil blogs at http://www.harzing.com/blog/

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