Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Web Citation Availability: A Follow-Up Study

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Web Citation Availability: A Follow-Up Study

Article excerpt

The researchers report on a study to examine the persistence of Web-based content. In 2002, a sample of 500 citations to Internet resources from articles published in library and information science journals in 1999 and 2000 were analyzed by citation characteristics and searched to determine cited content persistence, availability on the Web, and availability in the Internet Archive. Statistical analyses were conducted to identify citation characteristics associated with availability. The sample URLs were searched again between August 2005 and June 2006 to determine persistence, availability on the Web, and in the Internet Archive. As in the original study, the researchers cross-tabulated the results with URL characteristics and reviewed and analyzed journal instructions to authors on citing content on the Web. Findings included a decrease of 17.4 percent in persistence, and 8.2 percent in availability on the Web. When availability in the Internet Archives was factored in, the overall availability of Web content in the sample dropped from 89.2 percent to 80.6 percent. The statistical analysis confirmed the association between the likelihood that cited content will be found by future researchers and citation characteristics of content, domain, page type, and directory depth. The researchers also found an increase in the number of journals that provide instruction to authors on citing content on the Web.


Students and researchers look to literature citations as links between what is new and what is already known. The value of accurate and valid citations cannot be overstated, as citations act as knowledge building blocks. Citations to Web resources and documents are increasingly found in scholarly articles, and over the past several years a significant body of literature on the stability of citations to content on the Web has developed. Many of these studies document decreasing availability of cited content over time; fewer also have attempted to identify factors that contribute to the stability of these citations. Recognizing the citation stability problem and knowing the factors that contribute to Web reference stability will help authors, editors, and publishers develop policies and conventions that will ensure long-term access to cited Web content.

In 2002, the authors conducted a study of 500 citations containing URLs from articles published in library and information science journals in 1999 and 2000. (1) In this earlier study, the authors described URLs that led to cited content as "permanent." In reporting the findings of the follow-up study, they use the term "persistent" in place of permanent. Persistent is now commonly used in the literature and better describes the quality being studied. The study addressed the following questions:

* To what extent are authors currently referencing information and documents "published" on the Web?

* What percentage of cited electronic resources is available to be consulted by future scholars? How are they most often found?

* Is it possible to identify characteristics of citations to Internet resources that will help predict the availability of the content to which they refer?

* What type of guidance are authors receiving from editors and publishers?

In the earlier study, the authors found that the majority of the citations in the sample contained partial bibliographic information and no date viewed. Most URLs pointed to content pages with .edu or .org domains and did not include a tilde. More than half (56.4 percent) were persistent, and 81.4 percent were available on the Web; searching the Internet Archive increased the availability rate to 89.2 percent. Content, domain, and directory depth were associated with availability. Few of the journals provided instruction on citing digital resources. The authors offered suggestions for updating scholarly communication citation conventions based on these findings. …

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