, Volume 15, Issue 5–6, pp 437–447 | Cite as

What do citations count? the rhetoric-first model

  • Susan E. Cozzens


Because of the widespread use of citations in evaluation, we tend to think of them primarily as a form of colleague recognition. This interpretation neglects rhetorical factors that shape patterns of citations. After reviewing sociological theories of citation, this paper argues that we should think of citations first as rhetoric and second as reward. Some implications of this view for quantitative modeling of the citation process are drawn.


Quantitative Modeling Sociological Theory Citation Process 
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Notes and references

  1. 1.
    An early treatise on such applications isEvaluative Bibliometrics, Computer Horizons, Inc., Cherry Hill, NJ, 1976. An updated discussion is provided in: F. NARIN, Bibliometric techniques in the evaluation of research programs,Science and Public Policy, 14 (1987) 99–106.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, for example, the experience of the Leiden Indicators Project, as reported in: H. F. MOED, W. J. M. BURGER, J. G. FRANKFORT, A. F. J. Van RAAN,On the Measurement of Research Performance: The Use of Bibliometric Indicators, University of Leiden, Leiden, 1983.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Perhaps the best known controversy is over the work ofMartin andIrvine on radio astronomy observatories. See B. R. MARTIN, J. IRVINE, Assessing basic research: Some partial indicators of scientific progress in radio astronomy,Research Policy, 12 (1983) 61–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Some of these are drawn from common knowledge and others from E. GARFIELD, Citation data is subtle stuff. A primer on evaluating a scientist's performance,The Scientist, 6 April 1987, 9; and H. A. ZUCKERMAN, Citation analysis and the complex problem of intellectual influence,Scientometrics, 12 (1987) 329–338.Google Scholar
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    ZUCKERMAN, ibid..Google Scholar
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    S. M. STIGLER, Precise measurement in the face of error: A comment on MacRoberts and MacRoberts,Social Studies of Science, 17 (1987) 332–34.Google Scholar
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    MERTON first discussed this system in: Science and technology in a democratic order,Journal of Legal and Political Sociology, (1942) 115–26 (reprinted as: The normative structure of science,in: R. K. MERTON, The Sociology of Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1973).Google Scholar
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    Kaplan has discussed the application of the Mertonian paradigm to the problem of citation. See N. KAPLAN, op. cit. note 9..Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See S. E. COZZENS,Social Control and Multiple Discovery in Science: The Opiate Receptor Case, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1989.Google Scholar
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    For examples of texts that were rejected as outside the rhetorical conventions of the field, see G. MYERS, Texts as knowledge claims: The social construction of two biology articles,Social Studies of Science, 15 (1985) 593–630.Google Scholar
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    S. E. COZZENS, op. cit. note 13.Google Scholar
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    See O. AMSTERDAMSKA, L. LEYDESDORFF in this issue on the “significance” of citations.Google Scholar
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    See S. E. COZZENS, op. cit. note 13, for an analysis of how this affected citations to papers announcing a multiple discovery — a special case in which content can be held relatively constant and the effects of non-content factors can be examined.Google Scholar
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    See for example A. MENDEZ and I. GOMEZ in this issue.Google Scholar
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    Of course, we would also need to study the stability of these rates. D. WHITE, D. SULLIVAN, E. BARBONI have shown that the dependence of theory on experiment and vice versa can change with intellectual shifts in a specialty: The interdependence of theory and experiment in revolutionary science: The case of parity violation,Social Studies of Science, 9 (1979) 303–27.Google Scholar
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    S. E. COZZENS, Life history of a knowledge claim,Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization, 9 (1988) 511–29.Google Scholar
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    E. GARFIELD, The ‘Obliteration Phenomenon’ in science-and the advantage of being obliterated!, in: E. GARFIELD,Essays of an Information Scientist, Vol. 2, ISI Press, Philadelphia, 1977, pp. 396–98.Google Scholar
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    COZZENS, op. cit. note 26.Google Scholar
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    P. MESSERI, Obliteration by incorporation: Toward a problematics, theory and metric of the use of scientific literature, paper presented to the American Sociological Association, 5 September 1978.Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    See A. MENDEZ, I. GOMEZ, this volume. The best known case of nonobliteration among methods papers is the classic by O. H.Lowry on his method of protein concentration, a paper which is cited over 10000 times every year; see discussion by E. GARFIELD, Citation frequency as a measure of research activity and performance,Current Contents, 31 January 1973, pp. 5–7.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    See PORTER et al., op. cit. note 23, and COZZENS, op. cit. note 26 Life history of a knowledge:claim,Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization, 9 (1988) 511–29.Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    See H. F. MOED, this issue, for important findings on this last point.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan E. Cozzens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology Studies Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyUSA

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