, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 305-316

First online:

Why authors think their papers are highly cited

  • Henry SmallAffiliated withThomson ISI

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A survey of authors of highly cited papers in 22 fields was undertaken in connection with a new bibliometric resource called Essential Science Indicators (ESI®). Authors were asked to give their opinions on why their papers are highly cited. They generally responded by describing specific internal, technical aspects of their work, relating them to external or social factors in their fields of study. These self-perceptions provide clues to the factors that lead to high citation rate, and the importance of the interaction between internal and external factors. Internal factors are revealed by the technical terminology used to describe the work, and how it is situated in the problem domain for the field. External factors are revealed by a different vocabulary describing how the work has been received within the field, or its implications for a wider audience. Each author's response regarding a highly cited work was analyzed on four dimensions: the author perception of its novelty, utility, significance, and interest. A co-occurrence analysis of the dimensions revealed that interest, the most socially based dimension, was most often paired with one of the other more internal dimensions, suggesting a synergy between internal and external factors.