Hayhoe, George F. "Citation, Citation, Citation" Technical Communication, Volume 52, Number 1, February 2005, pp. 7-8(2)

Eugene Garfield garfield at CODEX.CIS.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jul 28 14:00:47 EDT 2006

gfhayhoe at scescape.net

Reproduced with permission of the Author.
Full Text :COPYRIGHT 2005 Society for Technical Communication

Title : Citation, Citation, Citation

Author: Hayhoe, George F.

Source: Technical Communication, Volume 52, Number 1, February 2005, pp. 7-8


Citation, citation, citation.(EDITORIAL). George F. Hayhoe.
        Technical Communication 52.1 (Feb 2005): p7(2).

It's one thing for me or for others within the Society for Technical
Communication to claim that this is the flagship journal of our profession.
It's quite another to rate our performance on more objective criteria. So
I'd like to examine how Technical communication compares with other
technical and professional communication journals.

Real estate agents joke that the three most important factors contributing
to the desirability of a property are location, location, location.
Similarly, journal editors might say that the three most important
determiners of a journal's reputation are citation, citation, citation. In
other words, the best measure of the significance of a journal is how often
its articles are referred to by those publishing in the field.


Our discipline is fortunate to have five outstanding journals:

* Technical communication (TC), published by STC since 1954

* IEEE transactions on professional communication (IEEE), published by the
IEEE Professional Communication Society since 1958

* Journal of technical writing and communication (JTWC), first published by
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1971 and currently by Baywood
Publishing Company

* Journal of business and technical communication (JBTC), published by Sage
Publications since 1987

* Technical communication quarterly (TCQ), published by the Association of
Teachers of Technical Writing since 1992

These journals are all peer-reviewed, and together they publish about 120
articles each year. Although they all target an audience of both
practitioners and academics, some are arguably less accessible--and perhaps
of less interest--to practitioners.

So how do these journals compare in terms of citation by those who publish
in the field? Gerald Alred, one of our discipline's two principal
bibliographers, assembled an annotated list of "Essential works on
technical communication" for the special 50th anniversary issue of TC
(50:585-616) in November 2003. Beginning with about 600 works gathered from
a variety of published sources and individuals, Alred narrowed his list to
115 based on "the number and diversity of sources listing ... [a]
particular title" (p. 585). Not surprisingly, the vast majority of works
that Alred included (88 of the 115) are books and book chapters. Of the 27
journal articles on his list, however, TC and JBTC account for eight each,
TCQ has four, and JTWC is represented by one. The remaining seven articles
appeared in journals specializing in the broader fields of rhetoric,
writing, and speech.

Since TC is the oldest and has the largest circulation, there's no surprise
that it is tied for the journal with most articles on Alred's list.
Nevertheless, IEEE, the second-oldest journal in the field, is not
represented on the list at all, and JBTC--a relative newcomer that probably
has more institutional than individual subscribers because it is
commercially published--is tied for first place among journals on Alred's
list of essential works. Perhaps a more comprehensive listing will allow us
to compare citation frequency more accurately.


Our second notable bibliographer, Elizabeth Overman Smith,
published "Strength in the technical communication journals and diversity
in the serials cited" in JBTC (14:131-184) in April 2000. Smith's article
had two goals: "to determine the strength of five technical communication
journals as forums as evidenced by the depth and rigor of the scholarly
conversations they publish" and "to identify the serials (journals,
magazines, and newspapers) that technical communication professionals use
for background and support for their professional activities" (p. 132).

To accomplish her goals, Smith analyzed the sources referenced by the
authors in all of the articles published in the five technical and
professional communication journals between 1988 and 1997 (she included
articles published in The technical writing teacher, TCQ's predecessor, for

Slightly fewer than half (12,337 of 25,866) of the citations Smith analyzed
referred to articles appearing in journals, newspapers, and magazines
(again, books were more frequently referenced than articles). TC was the
most frequently cited journal, with a total of 894 citations; the others
most frequently cited were, not surprisingly, the other four journals in
the field: JTWC with 624, IEEE with 563, JBTC with 454, and TCQ with 453.
In addition, TC published 9 of the 163 frequently cited articles discussed
in Smith's study, second only to JBTC with 10 (TCQ published 6 of the
frequently cited articles, IEEE had 5, and JTWC published 3).

According to Smith,

   Three findings come out of this study of the technical communication

   journals to support the argument that technical communication has

   increased its strength ... as a field of study: (1) the variety of

   areas discussed in the journal articles, (2) the increased reference

   to the technical communication journals, and (3) the prevalence of

   articles frequently cited from the technical and business

   communication journals. (p. 168)

The prominence of TC in the findings of Smith's study and in Alred's
bibliography of essential works is all the more impressive because it is
usually regarded as the least "academic" of the five journals in the field.
Indeed, during most of the period Smith covered, TC published large numbers
of very practice-oriented articles of the kind now published by Intercom
since its transformation from newsletter to magazine in 1996.


For academics in the natural sciences, engineering, medicine, and some of
the social sciences, simply being published isn't sufficient to earn tenure
and promotion. Their article-length publications must appear in the most
prestigious and high impact journals, determined by their listing in
Journal citation reports, which indexes more than 7,500 of the most highly
cited journals in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.

TC is one of two journals in our field (JBTC is the other) currently
included in the Social sciences citation index, a component of the Journal
citation reports, along with approximately 1,700 other journals. Of these,
43 are in the category of communication (covering such fields as
communications, journalism, mass communication, public relations,
advertising, and speech). Each of the journals in the category is rated in
terms of citation frequency and other factors, and in the last three years
for which data is available (2001-2003), TC has ranked 2nd, 10th, and 5th
respectively among the 43 journals in the category.

So what does all of this mean? As the Journal citation reports Web page
observes, the Reports supply "quantifiable statistical data that provides a
systematic, objective way to evaluate the world's leading journals and
their impact and influence in the global research community"
(www.isinet.com/products/evaltools/jcr). In other words, TC and JBTC have
been recognized by an external authority as the leading journals in the
field of technical and professional communication, and TC ranks very high
in terms of citation when compared to the most eminent journals in the
larger field of communication.


The question remains whether TC or any of the other journals in the field
is meaningful to practitioners. Several weeks ago, I received an e-mail
from a member explaining that one reason he wasn't renewing his membership
for 2005 was that he found "the articles [in the journal] pretentious,
academic, and boring to the point of being useless." He then quoted a
paragraph from a recent article that he said validated this assertion.

His claim frankly baffled me, so I did some analysis. All of the words in
the passage were common except for one that was defined the first time it
was used in the paragraph. As measured by Microsoft Word, the paragraph
itself and the entire article were written at a 12th-grade reading level,
with a Flesch Reading Ease score of 25, about the same as several news
articles I sampled at Scientific American.com. So what made this paragraph
different from most things we read?

As far as I could tell, the only significant difference was the fact that
it contained parenthetical citations of half a dozen books and articles. I
wondered whether the writer's reaction would have been the same if the
article had appeared without any citations.

Does anyone besides the academics in our Society or the profession at large
need TC or any other journal? This is a vitally important question because
journals are expensive to produce, print, and distribute, both in paper and
electronic form.

I cannot speak for any of the other technical and professional
communication journals, and I'm far from an unbiased source, but I believe
that practitioners are the most significant audience of TC. Every peer
review team evaluating manuscripts for potential publication in these pages
includes at least one practitioner as well as one academic, and the first
two criteria used for acceptance decisions place heavy weight on a
manuscript's awareness of and applicability to the practitioner audience.

With that information in mind, should we believe that the articles that TC
publishes are--or should be--light reading? Certainly not. But I think that
it does mean that those articles should be raw material for what we might
call the practitioners' citation index. It would be fascinating to survey
practitioners each year to determine how many of them have used ideas
presented in articles we publish in the journals in the field. I believe
that if we did have a practitioners' citation index, TC would rate as
highly there as it does on the more academic scales.

George F. Hayhoe


Source Citation: Hayhoe, George F. "Citation, citation, citation.
(EDITORIAL)." Technical Communication 52.1 (Feb 2005): 7(2). Expanded
Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. Drexel University (PALCI). 27 July 2006


Subject Category: COMMUNICATION

IDS Number: 896GA

ISSN: 0049-3155

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