Want More Citations? Write a Methods Book!

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Citation data has become increasingly integral to the social sciences with academics working hard to promote their work and to attract attention from their peers; citations are used to measure success, to discern evidence of impactful research and to quantify academic productivity. Rightly or wrongly they let us ‘count’ the social sciences. We need the numbers – so how can you improve your citations? Simple, write a methodology book.

A new study conducted by Elliott Green at LSE suggests that methodology publications, defined by Green as ‘including econometrics and statistics as well as qualitative methodology’ – receive consistently high citations, and in many cases, eclipse those of non-methods publications. The research also indicates that research methods publications included a higher number of female authors and co-authors than non-methodological titles; four of the top ten methodological books were authored or co-authored by women.

The project looked at social science publications (books and journals) with more than 20,000 citations.

Green uses this information to create a system of ranking which he represents as a series of lists. These include the 25 most cited books in the social sciences and the 10 most cited methodology books in the social sciences.


The 25 most cited books in the social sciences

The 10 most cited methodology books in the social sciences

The 10 most cited methodology books in the social sciences

The latter is an eclectic list with an interesting focus on analysis generally and statistics specifically. The citations for these ten titles are incredibly high – the highest ranked book, Cohen et al (1975,) for example has over 131,000 citations. This general success may be because methodology publications can transcend the perceived distance between monographs and student textbooks (a point Green himself makes); they are often cited in each capacity, and in some cases are considered interchangeable, which provides higher citations.

It is possible to merge these two lists; the titles are from comparable time periods, geographical locations and disciplines. Doing so clearly demonstrates the dominance of research methodology in the social sciences – when combined the methodology publications represent 50% of the top 10 titles with the highest citation counts.

The six highest ranking books in Green’s The 25 most cited books in the social sciences come from six different disciplines; economics and sociology creep up the rankings when you expand the list to 50, but generally there are no front runners – until you turn to methods. There are some inherent difficulties with classifying books by discipline, or in some cases as methodological or non-methodological ,(some books are claimed by more than one field, others shift between subjects as attitudes and approaches change), but if we accept Green’s distinctions, no single discipline dominates citation data within the social sciences.

So how can you drive up your citations? I would encourage you to think about publishing your research methods and methodology – and not just because I am Senior Commissioning Editor for Research Methods books at SAGE (London)! Methods publications are important and they are read. Citations of methods titles represent real use and engagement both in research and teaching. Publishing your research can raise your profile and increase your interdisciplinary networks.

Please feel free to contact me, or any of my colleagues, if you would like to discuss ideas for publication. If you’re convinced and want to reach out to me or my fellow editors, here’s a couple of things to have ready for that first contact. Obviously you don’t need a completed book, but it would be useful to have a proposed table of contents, simple concept, or a first chapter at hand.


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