II. Citation Analysis
A. What Is Citation Analysis?
Citation analysis is a technique that is widely used to evaluate the impact and prestige of individual scholars, academic journals, and university departments within a discipline. The technique may also be used to determine the impact an individual scholarly work (a book or journal article) has on subsequently published research in the field. In addition to its application in criminology, citation analysis has been used in disciplines such as medicine, economics, physics, sociology, and psychology. The rationale for using citation counts as a measure of research eminence was best explained by Rushton (1984): “If psychologist A’s work has been cited 50 times in the world’s literature that year, and psychologist B’s only 5,A’s work is assumed to have had more impact than B’s, thereby making A the more eminent” (p. 33).
Citation analysis first came to prominence in criminology in Wolfgang, Figlio, and Thornberry’s 1978 book Evaluating Criminology. The authors used the technique to determine the most-cited American books and journal articles in criminology between 1945 and 1972. Twenty years later, their research inspired Cohn, Farrington, and Wright to return to the topic in their 1998 book, Evaluating Criminology and Criminal Justice. In this book, they used citation analysis to examine the most-cited scholars and works in a variety of American and international journals in criminology and criminal justice over a 10-year period.
These books, and many other studies that use citation analysis in criminology and criminal justice, have resulted in a considerable amount of controversy over the acceptability of citation analysis as a scientific technique. Although many scholars find the results to be an interesting and important contribution to the field, others find this research threatening and may even actively oppose the publication of articles using citation analysis. However, recent research does suggest that the approach is both valid and reliable and is an important tool for measuring prestige and influence in criminology.
Citation analysis provides researchers with an objective and quantitative method for determining the impact on the field of a scholar, journal, work, or department. It assumes that if a specific article or book is frequently cited, many scholars find that work important and valuable. In addition, citation analysis assumes that citations reflect the influence of a given work on the field, so that if two researchers were working independently on the same problem, they would both cite the same material. Although there is some question as to whether citation counts accurately measure the quality of a highly cited work, they are used to measure that work’s influence or prestige.
Currently, there are two main methods commonly used for gathering citation data. The first method is to use citation indexes, especially those produced by the Institute for Scientific Information. These include the Science Citation Index, the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. These indexes list literally millions of bibliographic references made in thousands of journals published throughout the world. For the purposes of criminological research, the SSCI clearly is the most useful of the three.
The second method of gathering citation data involves examining reference lists of journals, scholarly books, textbooks, and other works in a given field and counting the number of citations made of a given scholar, scholarly work, or journal. Although this method is considerably more labor-intensive and time-consuming, it does permit researchers to avoid a number of problems that are inherent in the use of SSCI and other citation indices (discussed later). This technique was pioneered by Cohn and Farrington (1990) and has since been used successfully, both by them and by other researchers in criminology.