It is often said that successive generations of researchers face an increasing educational burden due to knowledge accumulation. On the other hand, technological advancement over time can improve the productivity of researchers and even change their cognitive processes. This paper presents a longitudinal study (2004–2011) of citation behavior in doctoral theses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. It is found that the number of references cited has increased over the years. At the same time, there has been a decrease in the length of time in the doctoral program and a relative constancy in the culture of the department. This suggests that students are more productive in facing an increased knowledge burden, and indeed seem to encode prior literature as transactive memory to a greater extent, as evidenced by the greater use of older literature.
KeywordsDoctoral theses Citation behavior Knowledge burden
Discussions with Rachel Cohen and Eric J. Strattman are appreciated.
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