, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 1195–1213 | Cite as

Which role do non-source items play in the social sciences? A case study in political science in Germany

  • Pei-Shan Chi


Publications that are not indexed by citation indices such as Web of Science (WoS) or Scopus are called “non-source items”. These have so far been neglected by most bibliometric analyses. The central issue of this study is to investigate the characteristics of non-source items and the effect of their inclusion in bibliometric evaluations in the social sciences, specifically German political science publications. The results of this study show that non-source items significantly increase the number of publications (+1,350 %) and to a lesser extent the number of citations from SCIE, SSCI, and A&HCI (+150 %) for evaluated political scientists. 42 % of non-source items are published as book chapters. Edited books and books are cited the most among non-source items. About 40 % of non-source items are in English, while 80 % of source items are in English. The citation rates of researchers taking non-source items into account are lower than those from source items, partially as a result of the limited coverage of WoS. In contrast, the H-indices of researchers taking only non-source items into account are higher than those from source items. In short, the results of this study show that non-source items should be included in bibliometric evaluations, regardless of their impact or the citations from them. The demand for a more comprehensive coverage of bibliometric database in the social sciences for a higher quality of evaluations is shown.


Non-source items Social sciences Publication patterns Research evaluation Political science 

Mathematics Subject Classification

01 94 

JEL Classification




This study is based on a previous work presented at 14th ISSI 2013 in Vienna (Chi 2013), and supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF, project number 01PQ08004A). The author would like to thank William Dinkel, Paul Donner, Sybille Hinze, Stefan Hornbostel, Vivien Petras, Jasmin Schmitz, Daniel Sirtes, Andreas Strotmann, Jian Wang, and Manuela Zinnbauer, those who contribute to improve the current and previous versions, and two reviewers for providing valuable comments on this paper. The citation data used in this paper are from a bibliometric database developed and maintained by the Competence Center for Bibliometrics for the German Science System (KB) and derived from the 2003 to 2012 Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and Arts and Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) provided by Thomson Reuters (Scientific) Inc. (TR®), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: ©Copyright Thomson Reuters (Scientific) 2012.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Research Information and Quality AssuranceBerlinGermany

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