, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 487–500 | Cite as

The presence of the encyclicals in Web of Science: a bibliometric approach

  • Rafael RepisoEmail author
  • Josu Ahedo
  • Julio Montero


The encyclicals, also known as papal letters, are documents that have a profound influence on the Catholic Church and, as a result, on the West. This research seeks to explore the impact and areas of influence of these documents according to the citations and length they have had in publications indexed in Web of Science. In addition to the nature and citations of the encyclicals spanning the pontificates of Leo XIII and Francis I, this study analyses the characteristics of the citing publications, such as subject matter, co-cited authors as well as the institution and country of publication. The production of encyclicals according to pontificate is irregular. This study shows that encyclicals on social themes are the ones with the greatest impact on science, particularly Rerum Novarum and the encyclicals commemorating it. Beyond the fields of Theology and Philosophy, encyclicals are used as referents in multiple themes, particularly in today’s great social themes of economics, politics, war, well-being, social inequality and human development. Likewise, the fact that the papal letters are co-cited together with great thinkers, such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Martin Heidegger, or theologians like Karl Ruhner, indicates their importance. Lastly, Catholic universities are observed be to the principal source of studies in which the encyclicals provide theoretical referents.


Encyclicals Web of Science Theology Non-source documents Bibliometric analysis 



We thank the reviewers for their corrections and the suggestion to incorporate the length of the encyclicals into the study.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR)LogroñoSpain

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