Skip to main content
Log in

How popular is your paper? An empirical study of the citation distribution

  • Rapid Note
  • Published:
The European Physical Journal B - Condensed Matter and Complex Systems Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Numerical data for the distribution of citations are examined for: (i) papers published in 1981 in journals which are catalogued by the Institute for Scientific Information (783,339 papers) and (ii) 20 years of publications in Physical Review D, vols. 11-50 (24,296 papers). A Zipf plot of the number of citations to a given paper versus its citation rank appears to be consistent with a power-law dependence for leading rank papers, with exponent close to -1/2. This, in turn, suggests that the number of papers with x citations, N(x), has a large-x power law decay \(N(x) \sim {x^{ - a}}\), with \(a \approx 3\).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Received: 12 May 1998 / Accepted: 12 May 1998

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Redner, S. How popular is your paper? An empirical study of the citation distribution. Eur. Phys. J. B 4, 131–134 (1998).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: