A citation analysis from a purposive sample of two leading journals is employed to build a tentative core collection of journals in communication disorders. A core collection is defined for this study as those journals that provide 80% of the sample's article citations. The bibliometric concept of "success-breeds-success" is reviewed, and its application to this sample of journals is quantified. The special problems of defining a core collection in a multidisciplinary field are discussed. Data is also provided on the types of publications cited, and the age distribution of cited journals.
The field of communication disorders encompasses the study of impairments and disabilities in speech, language, and hearing. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), founded in 1925, accredits practitioners, programs, and college and university graduate programs in communication disorders, and has 97,062 members (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 2000). ASHA's Council of Academic Accreditation (2000) has accredited 253 graduate programs in the United States in speech-language pathology and audiology (www.asha.org/students/caa_programs/caaprog.htm).
Communication disorders draws from multiple disciplines, yet it is clearly a discipline in its own right. It satisfies Kuhn's (1996) characteristics of a discipline, having its own specialized journals, an established professional society, and a special place in the academic curriculum. Accredited professionals, students in programs, and the libraries serving them need to access literature from a wide range of fields. The broad, multidisciplinary nature of communication disorders is demonstrated by the works cited in articles published in journals such as the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research and the Journal of Communication Disorders. Works cited in these communication-disorders journals draw from publications in many fields, including audiology, neurology, linguistics, medicine, physiology, psychology, psychiatry, education, and special education.
Identifying the most important journals helps professionals use their time efficiently, and helps libraries make the most of their budgets. Typically, an academic library will develop a core collection of journals in each of the disciplines taught in the institution's programs, and also subscribe to additional journals that strengthen and enhance the core collections. But defining a core collection is not easy. Many journals are used in more than one discipline, and titles often cease, merge, change names, or are newly created. Also, the quality of individual journals changes over time, so reputation may overestimate or underestimate the current quality of a journal.
Citation analysis is an established method for identifying the leading journals that belong in a discipline's core collection. Citation analysis is the systematic, quantitative study of works cited. It is part of the broader field of bibliometrics, the application of mathematical and statistical methods in the study of the use of documents and publication patterns (Osareh 1996). Osareh (1996) reviewed a body of citation analysis research used to rank publications according to their importance, to identify core collections, to measure the impact of publications, and to study subject interrelationships. Despite potential problems with citation analysis data discussed below, measuring cited use in professional journals is a well-established, objective, quantitative method for measuring the value of published literature.
Citation analysis is based on the premise that citations to literature more or less accurately represent the influence of that literature on authors. Cole and Cole (1972) used that premise to show that a small number of researchers produce most scientifically important papers, and then defended the use of citation analysis in a subsequent reply to letters to the editor (Cole and Cole 1974). MacRoberts and MacRoberts (1989) described flaws in this assumption and the practices that flow from it. Formal and informal influences are not always cited, authors may have bias in citing works, authors often cite themselves, types of citation are not consistent, and citation rates vary considerably among disciplines, nations, and times.
Many citation analyses are based on data provided by published citation indexes, notably the Institute for Scientific information's (ISI) Journal Citation Reports, based on data in the Science Citation Index (SCI) and Social Science Citation Index (SSCI). Critics of the reliability of data in the 1ST databases have identified potential problems with measurement errors caused by title changes, aberrant title abbreviations, and incomplete coverage (Rice et al. 1989). Funkhouser (1996) found that a significant portion of the references in communications journals were not covered in the ISI databases.
Citation analysis has consistently shown there to be a highly skewed distribution of cited works, whereby successful articles gain the most attention, and thus become even more successful. Success-breeds-success is often referred to as the Matthew Effect, from the book of Matthew (13:12): "for unto every one that bath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." Merton (1968) first described the Matthew Effect in terms of the disproportionate amount of attention given to the work of the most prominent scientists. Models of journal citation distribution models all show a pattern of success-breeds-success, …