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What information do citation analyses provide?
Citation analyses measure the attention garnered by articles written by different researchers. However, citation analyses reveal no objective facts about the quality of the article. Rather, they measure how often a specific publication has been referred to in other publications included in a certain reference database.
However, the database in question may not include several other publications with references to that publication. Those citations will not appear in the citation analysis. Similarly, the publication in question may not be included in any citation database, in which case the attention it garners in the form of citations remains unknown.
People often believe that frequently cited publications are of particularly high scientific quality. This may be true, but it can also mean that the publication has raised discussion or addresses a topical or controversial subject.
Referencing practices in different fields
Different fields use different referencing practices. In fields where accumulating and distributing knowledge rapidly is important, publications may garner references very quickly, even within weeks of publication. Such fields include, e.g., medicine and many branches of natural sciences, where journal articles are a key means for distributing information.
In fields where speed is less crucial or where books and compilations are more frequent, the first references in other publications may take three to six years to appear. Such fields include many branches of the humanities and social sciences. Books and compilation articles from these fields have begun to appear in citation databases only in recent years.
Citation analyses are conducted in the Web of Science and Scopus databases as well as in Google Scholar using the Publish or Perish analysis software, which is available online free of charge. The content and time range of the first two databases are public information, but those of Google Scholar are not.
Further information on citation analyses can be found here (in Finnish).