Predicting citations to journal articles: The ideal number of references


The increasing number of references in scientific journal articles suggests editors may prefer articles with many references. Articles in first position in a journal issue are found to have more references. Researchers also may prefer articles with many references. Two hypotheses are proposed to explain this preference: 1) If references represent the adequacy of review of relevant literature (an explanation “internal” to science), then the number of references per page will affect citations. 2) If references directly influence readers’ judgment of quality (an explanation “external” to science), then the total number of references will affect citations. Regression analysis of articles in sociology supports hypothesis two. References may affect citations to an article; references per page do not. The ideal number of references in a sociology article is estimated at sixty-six.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Lovaglia.

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is pursuing research in interpersonal relations and the sociology of science.

Drafts of this paper have benefited from the criticism of Geoffrey Tootell, Yehouda Shenhav, Paul Munroe, Morris Zelditch, Jr., Lowell Hargens, and Siniša Maričić.

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Lovaglia, M.J. Predicting citations to journal articles: The ideal number of references. Am Soc 22, 49–64 (1991) doi:10.1007/BF02691867

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  • Journal Article
  • Citation Count
  • American Sociological Review
  • Academic Affiliation
  • Journal Issue