Wang P. and Bownas J "Research Classics and Citation Analysis" American Society for Information Science & Technology Proceedings of 2005 Annual Meeting

Eugene Garfield garfield at CODEX.CIS.UPENN.EDU
Mon Mar 27 15:26:11 EST 2006

Peiling Wang : peilingw at
Jennifer Bownas : jbownas at


TITLE    : Research Classics and Citation Analysis
AUTHOR   : Peiling Wang and Jennifer Bownas
SOURCE   : American Society for Information Science & Technology
           Proceedings of 2005 Annual Meeting

E-mail addresses:

ADDRESS : School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee,
Knoxville TN 37996

What are research classics? Research classics are works of extraordinary
status in a field (Chubin, Porter, & Rossini, 1984). There are basically
two ways to identify classic works: (1) experts' judgments; and (2) citation
analysis. As an example of the former, many classics are selected by
professors as course readings. Classic works may also be identified by
citation counts. Citation Classics is a column in Current Contents® for the
top cited works selected by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)
(Garfield, 1987; 1989). As a quantitative measure, deciding on the
threshold for classics seems a real challenge. Earlier, Price (1965)
defines "4 percent of all papers appear to be "classics,' cited four or
more times in a year." (p. 511) In a study of 23 physics classics
published in the 1920s, Oppenheim & Renn (1978) found that they continued
to receive between 13 and 114 citations in 1974 and 1975. Walstrom &
Leonard (2000) used sustained citation counts, 10 per year over a 10
year period, to qualify superstar classics. In fact, many publications are
never cited: 55% of scientific papers without a single citation within 5
years of publication and citation rates are much lower in social science and
humanities (Hamilton, 1990).

In this study, we examined 36 classics identified by 8 researchers cited in
their research products (Wang & White, 1999). Using the threshold of 10
citations per year, 11 superstar classics (Table 1) were selected for
indepth analysis: longitudinal citation plot, co-citation, recitation, and
relationship of citing journals and classics. The nature of the superstars
is further investigated using the data from Citation Classics and the newly
launched ISI Website. The purpose of the study is to
address the following research questions:

1. What do researchers mean when referring to classics in the context of
use? In other words, what kinds of
classics do they cite?
2. What are the characteristics of the 11 superstar classics? In other
words, what are

a. the longitudinal citation patterns?
b. the co-citation patterns?
c. the recitation patterns?
d. the relationships between the citing journals and the journals that
published the superstar
3. What is the nature of the superstar classics?

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