, Volume 110, Issue 2, pp 893–914 | Cite as

Visualizing the knowledge domain of sustainable development research between 1987 and 2015: a bibliometric analysis

  • Jie Zhu
  • Weijian Hua


Sustainable development (SD) was posited almost three decades ago by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) as an integrated approach for addressing concerns regarding a number of environmental and socio-economic issues. To represent the knowledge structure and evolution of SD in the post-WCED era, this paper resorted to CiteSpace to identify and visualize cited references and keyword networks, the distribution of categories and countries, and highly cited references relating to SD research. Two indicators embedded in CiteSpace were introduced to investigate intellectual turning points and pivotal points to outline the emerging trends, and furthermore, a new indicator (BC × CB) was developed and applied for keyword analysis. Our findings were as follows. First, the United States and UK occupy dominant positions in relation to SD studies in general and meanwhile China records the highest publication counts. Second, the concept of nature capital has contributed significantly to interpretations of SD and the detected promising disciplinary frontiers are materials category and social sciences. Lastly, keyword analysis shows the valuable keywords under the measure of BC × CB and furthermore citation maps and visible hot research areas are revealed as well.


Sustainable development CiteSpace Knowledge structures Bibliometrics 



The authors sincerely treasured the comments and suggestions from reviewers. This work was supported by National Social Science Foundation of China (15ZDC031).


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Team on Sustainable DevelopmentWuhan UniversityWuhanChina

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