the importance of evaluating citations

Back, after having had a bit of a break away from it all, and I have to say I do feel better for it.

I also had a meeting with the university librarians, who were very helpful in gaining an understanding of the importance of citations – or references. One way of measuring the impact of a book or article is to look at the number of times its been referenced or cited by someone else, because this indicates that its being talked about/written about. It IS a bit of a blunt instrument at times: it is difficult to measure, for example, edited books (where one chapter can be heavily read and the others, virtually ignored – but this won’t show up in the citation counts. The only way to tell that this is happening is where you handle the book and it falls open at one grubby looking, heavily annotated, scribbled on chapter… and all the other pages are pristine). Another thing to consider is the simple fact that a book that has been around for longer may have more citations than a book that was published last year. A simple way around that is to do the number of citations divided by the age of the book/article (in years) to give a rough idea of how many citations it gained per year – the higher the number, the more influential it is.

It’s important to be able to track the influence of a text or an idea because that way you have some idea of its contribution to the historiography, and this is critical when it comes to the lit review. So as well as trying to trace patterns in the literature, you also have to identify the most important texts, to identify how ideas have been introduced and developed. And this is why the first year of the PhD is often thought of as being given over to the lit review – because it isn’t JUST about reading, its about evaluation, of all different sorts of evaluation, as well as just understanding what each individual author has to say. Its about developing an expertise in the field so that when a new author comes in, with a new idea, you are able to grasp it and understand how what they’re saying relates to everything else in the field, and where those ideas have come from.

So, yes. I am particularly pleased to be able to develop this, to learn about using different databases to trace the influence of different texts, and being able to manipulate the data to show me new patterns in the literature. It’s all important!

Finally, I had some fantastic news last night: my first article has been accepted and will be published in an academic journal in January 2016. The article has also won a prize, which has really made my year, and is going to be responsible for telling my imposter syndrome to SIT, and STAY for quite some time 🙂

2 thoughts on “the importance of evaluating citations

  1. I also realised, this morning, that working through citations as described here doesn’t necessarily mean that the book in question has been referenced by someone working in your particular field. In addition, many potential texts that will cite a book (e.g. doctoral theses) may not be published, and therefore will not be traceable by the databases – but if a text is cited in a doctoral thesis, it is definitely worth paying attention to. So, to repeat, this is a blunt instrument. But it does give an indication, at least.


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