, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 297-312

First online:

Citation life cycles of ten citation classics

  • V. CanoAffiliated withUniversidad Carlos 3
  • , N. C. LindAffiliated withUniversity of Waterloo

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Not all highly cited papers have the same citation life cycle curves, i.e. curves of frequency of citations received vs. time. The citation life of ten randomly selected Citation Classics, five in medicine and five in biochemistry, are studied longitudinally in time and compared with a random sample of ten non-classics of the same cohort. There are pronounced differences in the life cycle curves; two distinct types are suggested. Type A, comprised of both high and low cited papers in both fields, has an early peak of citation rate and may be approximated by a bilinear cumulative citation curve with a break at six years of age, when three quarters of the total number of citations have occurred. Type B, in this study comprised of extremely highly cited methodological Citation Classics, exhibit a constant or slowly accelerating growth rate with a vigorous citation life extending over the entire period studied and typically one third or less of the total citations accumulated at six years of age.