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Scholarly Credentials Toolkit for TCNJ Faculty: Article Impact — Citation Counts

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De-Duplicating Your Results

Cited reference searches and reports generated by the tools listed in the Article Impact section of this guide invariably produce duplicate references or cites. Easily de-duplicate your results lists by importing them into RefWorks, an online bibliographic management tool licensed by Gitenstein Library. Most of the library's databases allow direct importing of citations into RefWorks.

The Perils of Citation Counts

Following are some of the challenges and limitations of traditional citation counts/analyses:

  • Citation counts measure impact. Rely instead on peer-reviewers to assess quality.
  • Disciplinary context is critical. It is inappropriate to compare individuals in disparate fields. When in doubt, trust disciplinary experts to assess the impact of a scholar's work.
  • All cites to a work are not created equal. Anyone who has ever read a literature review in the social sciences knows, for example, that one or two works often stand out. In other words, from which of the many cited works did the citing author draw genuine inspiration?
  • Citation counts can be manipulated. Authors who extensively cite themselves might artificially inflate their own impact. Editors and peer reviewers too can sometimes artificially inflate impact factors of the journals for which they volunteer or work. Indeed, two researchers recently uncovered disturbing patterns related to "coercive citation" practices among journal editors and even the presence of "citation cartels" in academia.
  • Low citation counts do not necessarily reflect the absence of impact. Infrequently cited works sometimes spur personal reflection and/or informal conversation. In the absence of citation counts, consider Altmetrics that measure attention or usage (e.g., full-text views in a database or download counts). Again, look to disciplinary experts for guidance.
  • High citation counts sometimes mean that the author's topic is merely timely. Scholars who gravitate toward less popular topics might receive lower citation counts and yet still have an impact on their disciplines. An infrequently cited article might, in a future academic turn, have presaged a trend. What of the creation of intrinsic knowledge for its own sake?
  • Traditional citation analyses are backward-looking. They cannot, therefore, address the impact that a budding or even long-standing scholar might have in the future.

Guide Author (Humanities Librarian)

David C. Murray's picture
David C. Murray
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TCNJ Library,
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