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.


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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This entry was posted in Impact Factor, Promotion, Strategy by Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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