Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

What Do Citation Patterns Reveal about the Outdoor Education Field? A Snapshot 2000-2013

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

What Do Citation Patterns Reveal about the Outdoor Education Field? A Snapshot 2000-2013

Article excerpt


The expanding reach and availability of citation data, particularly due to Google Scholar (GS), have made citation metrics--and patterns--more accessible in the social sciences and humanities and more meaningful, provided differences between disciplines or fields are understood (Harzing, 2013). Citation measurement, long established in the physical sciences, has only recently become mainstream in the social sciences and humanities, in part due to the advent of GS. In some fields and in some institutions citation measures are used to infer the impact of a particular journal or individual academic (LSE Public Policy Group, 2011), but citation data can also serve other purposes. Whether or not citation metrics are important to academic careers in OE, citation data can also be used to help understand the nature of academic discourse in the field, which is the aim of this article.

There is considerable literature on citation metrics. We have relied on Harzing's (2013) work, which has a particular focus on the use of GS data in smaller or marginal fields of study. GS is important because in a field like OE it picks up any and every citation it can find, as distinct from indexing citations only in a specific set of journals. We refer readers interested in the more arcane aspects of citation metrics to Harzing (2013) and the literature she cites.

While we expect this article will have some relevance for those interested in the application of citation metrics in ranking exercises, our primary aim was to use citation data and tools to better understand the OE literature. In trying to understand the ebb and flow of ideas in the OE field, citation patterns do not reveal which ideas are most significant--that requires a review of both the cited works and the citations in context--but they do indicate where the most influential ideas might be found.

To the best of our knowledge, there has been no previous research on citation patterns in OE journals or publications. There have been previous reviews of OE research (see, for example, McKenzie, 2000 or Rickinson et al., 2004), and Thomas, Potter, and Allison (2009) have published a broad overview of the content of the Australian Journal of Outdoor Education (AJOE), (1) the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning (JAEOL), and the Journal of Experiential Education (JEE).

The most basic citation measure is a count of the number of times a publication (article, paper, book, or thesis) has been cited in the scholarly or research literature. A well-cited publication will accrue citations over time, and in some cases could continue to be regularly cited many years after it was first published. More complex citation measures can be applied if assessing the impact of a particular journal or a particular academic. One such measure is the h-index: a widely used and robust measure of the impact of an opus, of either an individual or a journal. The h-index is defined such that an author (or journal) with an h-index of 16 (for example) has 16 publications with 16 or more citations. (2) Unlike a publication count, the h-index discounts papers that are not cited. Unlike a simple tally of citations, the h-index is undistorted by one or two very highly cited publications--an increase in h-index requires both more citations and more publications (Harzing, 2013). H-index is sufficient for the purposes of this article but in ranking exercises alternative indices can be used to give more credit to very highly cited papers, to adjust for an inherent h-index bias against junior academics (a senior academic could have a large and growing h-index without having produced any worthwhile research for a decade), and to adjust for multiple authorship (Harzing, 2013). Some measures adjust for self-citation but accounting for self-citation embedded in multiple authorship is complex, and according to Harzing (2013) citation ranking is rarely altered as a result. …

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