Citation Analysis of Education Dissertations for Collection Development

By Haycock, Laurel A. | Library Resources & Technical Services, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Citation Analysis of Education Dissertations for Collection Development


Haycock, Laurel A., Library Resources & Technical Services


The reference lists of forty-three education dissertations on curriculum and instruction completed at the University of Minnesota during the calendar years 2000-2002 were analyzed to inform collection development. As one measure of use of the academic library collection, the citation analysis yielded data to guide journal selection, retention, and cancellation decisions. The project aimed to ensure that the most frequently cited journals were retained on subscription. The serial monograph ratio for citation also was evaluated in comparison with other studies and explored in the context of funding ratios. Results of citation studies can provide a basis for liaison conversations with faculty in addition to guiding selection decisions. This research project can serve as a model for similar projects in other libraries that look at literature in education as well as other fields.

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As a component of the collection development toolkit, citation analysis can yield data regarding use of library collections to guide and support selection decisions. Given current conflicting and increasing pressures on library collection budgets, academic librarians with selection responsibilities may want to draw on tools such as citation analysis for help in making decisions about journal acquisition, retention, cancellation, and provision of electronic access.

Librarians with selection responsibilities in academic libraries often are liaisons to academic departments. A key role in liaison work is consultation with faculty regarding collection decisions. (1) Results of a citation analysis study can be a useful part of those faculty," liaison conversations by offering data on journal use. Such data might help focus faculty comments when there is disagreement about proposed cancellations. (2) Additionally, data from citation analysis and other methodologies can provide documentation supporting selector decisions. This documentation may be requested to support fiscal and other types of accountability.

A variety of tools are used in academic libraries to assess collection use. Circulation and shelving data, cost-per-use measures, interlibrary loan studies, reviews of core lists, citation analyses, and other methods are regularly employed. No one method will provide a full picture of collection use. Assessments that use several methods are likely to offer the most valid outcomes. (3) While high or low use of a journal may not necessarily dictate selection, retention, or cancellation decisions, use patterns do enable close examination of the subscription and associated costs. Those new to selection and serials management may want to consider using methods such as citation analysis as they explore ways to evaluate and balance their collections. The methods outlined here can serve as an introduction to the process and as a model for those wanting to undertake a similar study in disciplines other than education.

Citation Analysis of Theses and Dissertations

Academic librarians have long used various types of citation analysis to study collections. Analysis of dissertation and thesis reference lists is one approach used to measure library use by graduate students, who are traditionally frequent and heavy library, users. Dissertations may be "invaluable roadsigns" to the literature of a discipline. (4)

Recent examples of this methodology include Sylvia and Lesher's study of psychology and counseling dissertations and theses, Marinko's research on women's studies dissertations, and Kuyper-Rushing's examination of music dissertations. (5) While citation analysis studies have tended to rely on local institutional data, some have integrated data from other institutions. (6) Buchanan and Herubel explored serial monograph ratios comparing political science and philosophy dissertations and found that journals were heavily used in these disciplines. (7) Beile, Boote, and Killingsworth studied education dissertations from the perspective of reference list quality to assess student expertise in use of the literature.

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