, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 1047–1063 | Cite as

Is there a gender-based fragmentation of communication science? An investigation of the reasons for the apparent gender homophily in citations

  • Matthias PotthoffEmail author
  • Fabian Zimmermann


Multiple studies report that male scholars cite publications of male authors more often than their female colleagues do—and vice versa. This gender homophily in citations points to a fragmentation of science along gender boundaries. However, it is not yet clear whether it is actually (perceived) gender characteristics or structural conditions related to gender that are causing the heightened citation frequency of same-sex authors. A bibliometric study on the two leading German communication science journals Publizistik and Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft was employed to further analyze the causes of the phenomenon. As scholars tend to primarily cite sources from their own area of research, differences among male and female scholars regarding their engagement in certain research fields become relevant. It was thus hypothesized that the research subject might mediate the relationship between the citing and cited authors’ genders. A first analysis based on n = 917 papers published in the period from 1970 to 2009 confirmed the expected gender-differences regarding research-activity in certain fields. Subsequently, structural equation modeling was employed to test the suggested mediation model. Results show the expected mediation to be a complementary one indicating that gender homophily in citations is partly due to topical boundaries. While there are alternative explanations for the remaining direct effect, it may suggest that a fragmentation of science along gender boundaries is indeed an issue that communication science must face.


Fragmentation of science Citations Gender homophily Bibliometrics Intergroup communication 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Media and Communication StudiesUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany

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