Why has Latour's theory of citations been ignored by the bibliometric community? discussion of sociological interpretations of citation analysis


The paper discusses the often lamented lack of a theory of citations, and the lack of a sociological theory in particular. It draws attention to one proposed theory and discusses the potential reasons why it has not been generally accepted as the theory of citations, despite its merits in explaining many phenomena in the citation behaviour of scientists. This theory has been expounded by Latour and presented, in particular, in his book entitledScience in Action.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    B. Latour,Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    N. Kaplan, The norms of citation behaviour: Prolegomena to the Footnote,American Documentation, 16 (1965) 179–184.

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    R. K. Merton, Foreword, in:E. Garfild Citation Indexing: Its Theory and Application in Science, Technology, and Humanities, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1979, vii-xi.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    E. Garfield,Citation Indexing: Its Theory and Application in Science, Technology, and Humanities, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1979.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    J. R. Cole, S. Cole,Social Stratification in Science, University of Chicago Press, London, 1973.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    F. Narin,Evaluative Bibliometrics: The Use of Publication and Citation Analysis in the Evaluation of Scientific Activity, Computer Horizons Inc., Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 1976.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    B. R. Martin, J. Irvine, Assessing basic research: Some partial indicators of scientific progress in radio astronomy,Research Policy, 12 (1983) 61–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    G. N. Gilbert, Referencing as persuasion,Social Studies of Science, 7 (1977) 113–122.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    M. H. Macroberts, B. R. Macroberts, Quantitative measures of communication in science: A study of the formal level.Social Studies of Science; 36 (1986) 223–229.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    M. H. Macroberts, B. R. Macroberts, Testing the Ortega Hypothesis: Facts and artifacts,Scientometrics, 12 (1987) 293–295.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Scientometrics, 12 (1987) Nos 5–6.

  12. 12.

    H. Small, Citation context analysis, in:B. J. Dervin, M. J. Voigt (Eds),Progress in Communication Sciences, Ables, Norwood, NJ, 3 (1982) 287–310.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    B. Cronin,The Citation Process, Taylor Graham, London, 1984.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    M. Callon, J. Law, A. Rip, Qualitative scientometrics; in:M. Callon, J. Law, A. Rip (Eds),Mapping the Dynamics of Science and Technology, The Macmillan Press Ltd, Houndmills and London, 1986, 103–123.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    D. Edge, Quantitative measures of communication in science: A critical review,History of Science, 17 (1979) 102–134.

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    S. Woolgar, Beyond the citation debate: Towards a sociology of measurement technologies and their use in science policy.Science and Public Policy, 18 (1991) 319–326.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    H. Zuckermann, Citation analysis and the complex problem of intellectual intluence,Scientometrics, 12 (1987) 329–338.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    S. E. Cozzens, What do citations count? The rhetorical-first model,Scientometrics, 15 (1989) 437–447.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    T. Luukkonen, Citations in the rhetorical, reward, and communication systems of science,Acta Universitatis Tamperensis, ser A, vol. 285, Tampere: University of Tampere 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    L. Leydesdorff, O. Amsterdamska, Dimensions of citation analysis.Science, Technology, & Human Values, 15 (1990) No. 3, 305–335.

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    H. Small, Cited documents as concept symbols,Social Studies of Science, 8 (1978) 327–340.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    D. De Solla Price,Little Science, Big Science … and Beyond, Columbia University Press, New York, 1986.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    L. Leydesdorff,The Challenge of Scientometrics: The Development, Measurement, and Self-Organisation of Scientific Communications, DSWO Press, Leiden, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    M. J. Mulkay, Some aspects of cultural growth in the natural sciences,Social Research, 36 (1969) 22–52.

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    I. I. Mitroff,The Subjective Side of Science, Elsevier, New York, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    B. Latour, S. Woolgar,Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, Princeton University Press, Oxford, 1986.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    T. S. Kuhn,The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    K. D. Knorr-Cetina, M. Mulkay, Introduction: Emerging principles in social studies of science, in:K. D. Knorr-Cetina, M. Mulkay (Eds),Science Observed, Perspectives on the Social Study of Science, Sage, London, 1983, p. 1–17.

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    E. Garfield, Derek Price and the practical world of scientometrics,Science, Technology, & Human Values, 13 (1988) 349–350.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Luukkonen, T. Why has Latour's theory of citations been ignored by the bibliometric community? discussion of sociological interpretations of citation analysis. Scientometrics 38, 27–37 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02461121

Download citation


  • Citation Analysis
  • Citation Count
  • Citation Behaviour
  • Knowledge Claim
  • Analytical Perspective