, Volume 110, Issue 3, pp 1437–1452

Exploration into the evolution and historical roots of citation analysis by referenced publication year spectroscopy


DOI: 10.1007/s11192-016-2206-9

Cite this article as:
Hou, J. Scientometrics (2017) 110: 1437. doi:10.1007/s11192-016-2206-9


In this study, we investigated the evolution process and historical roots of citation analysis study by reference publication year spectroscopy (RPYS), which is an advanced research method recently introduced in the field of Scientometrics. Through analyzing the publication year and citation frequency of cited references in a knowledge domain, RPYS can identify the citation peak of such cited references. We collected 2543 articles including 56,392 references regarding citation analysis in SCI-E and SSCI databases between 1970 and July 2016 as our data source. Based on the RPYS method by the CRExplorer program, the results showed that the peak citation publication years by chronological order occurred in 1955, 1963, 1973, 1979, 1981, 1990, 2005 and 2008 in the field of citation analysis study. According to the overall distribution of peak citation publication years, the RPYS for citation analysis was divided into five time periods for the convenience of comparison in this paper: that is, before 1900, 1901–1950, 1951–1970, 1971–2000, and 2001–2016. Pre 1950, especially during the 1900s–1950s, before the citation analysis method was introduced, there were three rather high peak citation publication years, Lotka’s law and Bradford’s law laid the knowledge foundation for citation analysis. 1950s–1970s was the forming period of citation analysis, among the three citation peaks in this period, Garfield (Science 122(3159):1127–1128, 1955), Price (Von Der Studierstube Zur 7(3–6):443–458, 1963, Science 149:510–515, 1965), and Kessler (1963) established an important knowledge base for the formation of citation analysis study. 1971–2000 was a developing period of citation analysis. Document Co-citation Analysis and Author Co-citation Analysis methods laid the foundation of the development of citation analysis study. Since 2000, citation analysis study has been expanding rapidly. By the number of published papers and number of cited references with highly cited frequency, Garfield E., White H.D., Small H., MacRoberts M.H., Price D.D. have played an important role in promoting the evolution of citation analysis study.


Referenced publication year spectroscopy (RPYS)Citation analysisCitation peakHistorical rootCRExplorer

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center of Science Technology and SocietyDalian UniversityDalianChina