, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 129–145 | Cite as

Shannon's entropy as a measure of the “life” of the literature of a discipline

  • E. Matricciani


The paper is divided in two parts. Part I deals with the novel use of the concept ofentropy H (measured in nepers) of the ageT of references cited in the literature of a specialty, and the derived parameterS=exp(H) (measured in years). We have proposed to useS (orH) as a measure of the obsolescence of the literature. The concept of entropy comes from the Theory of Information (Shannon) where its mathematical properties have been widely studied and are thus available.H andS have been calculated for the log-normal probability density functions (which model the empirical distributions ofT) of some IEEE journals and for the 58-year collection of an electronics journal, and then they have been compared to the total utility function, this latter defined in the literature. Part II recalls and discusses the mean residual life,M(T), and the expected lifeE(T), of a reference of ageT (concepts borrowed from lifetime data analysis). Besides their intrinsic applications, another possible application of these concepts may be in defining quantitatively the age of “historical” papers. Examples taken from the literatures of the XX and XIX centuries have been reported.


Entropy Density Function Probability Density Utility Function Probability Density Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    L. Egghe, R. Rousseau,Introduction to Informetrics, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1990.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    E. Matricciani, The probability distribution of the age of references in engineering papers,IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications, 34 (1991) No.1, 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    L. Egghe, I.K. Ravichandra Rao, Citation age data and the obsolescence function: Fits and explanations,Information Processing & Management, 28 (1992) No. 2, 201–217.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    C. E. Shannon, A mathematical theory of communication,Bell System Tech. J., 27 (July 1948), 379–423; (October 1948), 623–656. Reprinted in:C.E. Shannon, W. Weaver,The Mathematical Theory Of Communication, The University Of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1949.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    E. Matricciani, Nascita sviluppo e struttura dell'articolo tecnico-scientifico (in Italian), (Birth, Development and Structure of the Technical and Scientific Paper),L'Elettrotecnica, LXXVIII (1991), N.10, 857–870.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    M. Faraday,Expcrimental Researches in Electricity, B. Quaritch, London, Volume I (1839), Volume II (1844); R. Taylor and W. Francis, London, Volume III (1855).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    W. D. Niven (Ed.),The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Dover Publication, New York, 1890.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    J.F. Lawless,Statistical Models And Methods For Lifetime Data, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1982.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Matricciani
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Elettronica e InformazionePolitecnico di MilanoMilano(Italy)

Personalised recommendations