Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

writing a highly cited paper – a sceptical view

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I’ve been somewhat irritated recently, as I’m sure most academics have been, by the increasing interest that our universities have in citations. Citations count in league tables.  We – academics – are increasingly told that we must focus more on how to ramp up our own citations. It’s recently been explained to me for example that citations can be increased by writing review articles and by writing with colleagues from particular US and Australian institutions.

This kind of advice is invariably based on interpretations of citation metrics. I strongly suspect that these explanations of how-to-write-a-highly-cited- paper are a case of people  (who ought to know better) mistaking correlations for causes. Apart from the times when academics cite papers that are bad, or because they are written by someone already famous, my sense is that it’s more generally the case that the papers that are cited a lot also happen to be significant in some way. That’s not…

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