the most cited works in sociology, 2012 edition

Because December is the season for making lists, I’ve updated my sociological navel-gazing to create a 2012 edition of the most cited items in sociological journals.

Since there is no widely accepted list of sociological journals, I include those journals* where the majority of authors who list a department in their mailing address list one that includes the word “sociology” and which have a significant US editorial presence.† This totals 47 journals and includes all the ones you would expect along with some less widely-known journals, like Social Politics. I downloaded the 1,563 research articles published in these journals between December 1, 2011 and November 30, 2012 from Web of Science. That took nine–just nine–clicks, which isn’t so bad. For each article, I counted up which books or articles they cited, and then summed it all up. Journals that published frequently and publish lots of articles (like Social Science Research) or journals where authors tend to cite lots of things (like AJS) probably have undue influence by this measure, but simply counting the number of times something has been cited is a pretty good first pass at seeing what is being commonly referenced.

Here’s the top 25 (as an image, because I can’t do tables in WordPress):

top25_2012

If you want to waste some time, here’s the full list.

So, one in 33 articles cites Distinction. The majority at the top of the list are books along with a pair each from AJS, ASR and the Annual Review, along with one article from Social Forces. The authors and titles are truncated by Web of Science, so don’t blame me. Remember that the lists only counts citations in this group of sociology journals, so being famous in other worlds doesn’t get you on the list.

Fun fact: 2/3 of things that were cited last year were only cited once, and 95% of things cited were cited less than five times. And, unless one of your articles was cited nine or more times in one of these journals last year, you can consider yourself, like me, one of the 99%.

One thing that struck me was how old everything  on this top list was. The median publication year in the top 100 was 1992. Of the top 100, only one piece was published in the last five years. The author ended up at boarding school for future investment bankers, so there is a price to pay for influence.

More generally, things aren’t that bad. It turns out that the average thing we cite is ten or eleven years old. There is a lot of factors that go into what items get cited and how many times, such as the number of papers published in an area or the degree to which there is a common puzzle or cannon in a subfield.  But we don’t seem to be in a hurry to cite new stuff. Or alternatively, we aren’t easily swayed by the newest research trend.

when

I don’t know how that has changed over the long term, but I just ran the numbers for articles published in 2009 in the same set of journals and got the same median lag of ten years.

On a side note, it’s my understanding that Journal Impact Factors are often computed using citations to articles published in the last two or five years. Last year, 93% of the stuff we cited was more than two years old and 78% more than 5 years old, further complicating these measures.

* Social Science Research (110 articles); Sociology of Health & Illness (77); Journal of Marriage and Family (73); Social Forces (52); Demography (48); Journal For the Scientific Study of Religion (47); Sociological Forum (45); Deviant Behavior (44); American Sociological Review (40); Population Research and Policy Review (35); Poetics (33); Sociological Spectrum (31); International Migration Review (31); Sociological Quarterly (30); Social Networks (30); Journal of Health and Social Behavior (30); Review of Religious Research (29); Sociological Inquiry (28); Criminology (28); Social Compass (27); Symbolic Interaction (26); American Journal of Sociology (26); Gender & Society (25); Mobilization (25); Annual Review of Sociology (25); Socio-economic Review (25); Theory and Society (24); Teaching Sociology (23); Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (23); Ethnography (23); Punishment & Society-international Journal of Penology (23); Rural Sociology (23); Sociological Methods & Research (22); Social Politics (22); Homicide Studies (22); Qualitative Sociology (21); Sociology of Education (20); Social Problems (18); City & Community (17); Feminist Criminology (17); Sociology of Religion (16); Sociological Theory (16); Theoretical Criminology (16); Work and Occupations (15); Social Psychology Quarterly (12); Journal of Mathematical Sociology (10); Sociological Perspectives (10). I might be missing the last issue from a couple of journals because they haven’t showed up in Web of Science yet. You snooze you lose.

† My method of identifying sociological journals doesn’t really work for non-US journals as it appears non-US folk are much more likely to lists themselves in things like “School of Social Policy.”  Sorry. You can ballpark the effect of including these journals by adding 327 cites to Giddens’s Modernity and Self-Identity and including a couple of works by John Goldthorpe to the list.

11 Comments

  1. Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The median publication year in the top 100 was 1992. Of the top 100, only one piece was published in the last five years.

    Wow, depressing. Please tell me other disciplines are also like this and it should not be interpreted as evidence that my career choice was subconsciously influenced by having grown up in a slowly drying-up small town.

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  2. klhoughton
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Is the Portes citation really (as it seems to be) the 1998 Annual Review of Sociology?

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    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Yup, “Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern sociology.” Web of Science has an idiosyncratic abbreviation style. They also don’t provide second authors or issue/volume page in the works cited field, so the data isn’t perfect. It’s a much bigger mess for books, as, for example, sometimes they include stuff after the colon and sometimes they don’t.

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  3. Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I just ran the numbers for 26 econ journals for 2011. In the top 100 the median publication year was 1998, but the overall median was 2000/2001. So better at the the top, but overall the same. My guess is that the top 100 is more recent, at least in part, because the population of articles is more methodologically focused. Top cite: Newey and Wests’s (1987) “A simple, positive semi-definite, heteroskedasticity and autocorrelation consistent covariance matrix”.

    For my set of poli sci articles from 141 journals from 2011, in the top 100 the median publication year was 1995, and the overall median was 2001/2002. Top cite: Downs’ (1957) “An Economic Theory of Democracy.” Fun fact: Bowling Alone ranks 15th in the poli sci list but third on the sociology list.

    Note: Different methods for defining what counts as disciplinary journal, so numbers not directly comparable. Also, there is likely to be systematic difference in the lag between submission and publication that bias the numbers.

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  4. klhoughton
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Jeremy – I’m betting that Economics would be similar, and for the same reason: the works you HAVE to cite because they were first.

    Just think what would happen (or, for all I know, does happen) to median year if Psych papers had to cite Frued or Jung or Adler.

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    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      If somebody has a list of psych journals in “Journal A” OR “Journal B” OR “Journal C” format, I’m happy to run the numbers. It just takes a minute.

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  5. Jenn Lena
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I love these analyses. They’d make a great “Footnotes” column.

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    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Thanks. Actually the content of the post is just a ruse. My real goal was to trick people into clicking on the anti-Pitchfork link.

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      • Jenn Lena
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        What a complicated ruse, since hating Pitchfork is an item on the Pitchfork platform.

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  6. lostmyedgelongago
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I think it would be interesting to present the same list but aggregated to the scholar level. Some are publishing many articles which may get cited a lot in aggregate, even if no one of their articles is extremely cited.

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  7. Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on multilocality and commented:
    From where we write, speak, quote?! Do the Sociologists really build a global community?

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3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] According to Neal at Scatterplot, here are the most cited sociological books and articles of 2012: [...]

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  2. [...] styczeń jest miesiącem sprawozdawczości, zliczania punktów i tworzenia zestawień. Autor bloga scatterplot zamieścił interesujący ranking  cytowań prac socjologicznych. Nie jestem socjologiem nauki więc prawdopodobnie odkryję tu [...]

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  3. […] points out is that our discipline requires us to acknowledge our key thinkers.  Neal from Scatterplot recently did an analysis showing that most of the papers cited in sociology are at least 10 years […]

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