Anne-Wil Harzing provides an excellent introduction to the complex world of article level citation data in the Publish or Perish Book. Dave Puplett, E-Services Manager at the Library of The London School of Economics, highly recommends Harzing’s book to any researcher who wishes to understand the growing field of citation analysis, and finds some useful tips on using citation software to evaluate other academics and find future co-authors.

The Publish or Perish Book. Anne-Wil Harzing. September 2010. Tarma Software Research Publishing.

In 2006, Anne-Wil Harzing, while making a case for her own academic promotion, saw a need for software that could help her to show how frequently her own work had been cited. ‘Publish or Perish‘ was born, and Anne-Wil was successful in her promotion. She is now Professor in International Management at Melbourne University.

Publish or Perish (PoP) has since become internationally recognised and widely popular, both because of the unique service that it offers and its perfect timing, at a time when evaluation of article level impact has become an increasingly valuable currency by which to measure the value of academic research.

The book gives detailed and extensive instructions to potential users of the software, but also gives broader advice to researchers and related support staff. Harzing describes PoP as having the potential “to show a citation record to its best advantage” [p.1]. It can also be used though as a tool for finding journals in which to publish, to carry out bibliometric research on an author or journal, or as part of a search for finding sources for a literature review.

Usefully the book gives an overview of the three main sources for citation analysis: Google Scholar, Thomson Reuters Web of Science, and Scopus. For a newcomer to article level citation analysis, this is an excellent introduction with clear explanations of each service. It also features an overview of the different citation metrics that are in current use, such as h-index and journal impact factor.

PoP uses Google Scholar data for its own analysis, and therefore pulls in information from publishers, university repositories, and so on. The chapters of this book cover searching by specific authors and particular journals, and how to use every feature of the software in detail. This detail is made easy to understand due to screenshots and extra tips and suggestions.

Harzing created this software for pragmatic reasons however, and acknowledges this with a chapter ‘Making your case for tenure or promotion’, which is full of practical advice for researchers who want to use article level metrics to demonstrate the impact of their work. Harzing’s advice covers the best metrics to use in certain situations, and how to interpret common patterns in citation data. For example, if you wish to demonstrate the impact of your own intellectual contribution, drawing attention to highly-cited items that you authored on your own will make this case better than showing multi-authored works even if they have impressive citation rates. Another example is when it might be best to use a contemporary h-index (which adds a premium to recent publications), as it can demonstrate that your recent work has been particularly well-cited.

A further chapter of implementable advice, ‘Tips for Deans and Other Academic Administrators’, offers some sound advice to those who want to engage with citation analysis but have reservations. Boldly headed: ‘What sensible administrators should do’ there are six tips that I will paraphrase, and endorse, here:

  • Use Google Scholar
  • Stop worrying about Self Citations
  • Don’t use citation analysis for very early career academics
  • Realise that citation activity varies greatly between disciplines
  • Be very careful with establishing norm scores
  • Use an expert such as a Librarian for help

Anyone who has even casually looked at item level citation analysis knows there are many potential pitfalls, and Harzing tackles them with admirable honesty. She covers tricky areas such as multi-authored edited volumes and citation analysis for books, the myths around self-citations, disambiguation of authors, and problems of inaccuracies in Google’s source data with a clear and factual analysis.

Harzing recognises several possible other uses for citation data, such as using it to evaluate other academics and finding future co-authors or authors who share an interest. She notes that it could also be used as a way of benchmarking yourself against people whose work you recognise, or even as a way for PhD students to find or research their supervisor.

Her overall conclusions are clear and succinct, and highlight why this tool is of particular interest to social scientists. The way that social scientists publish and cite each other is fundamentally different to the Sciences, and Google Scholar’s broad and inclusive data represents social science research citations better than any other source.

Harzing’s book is an excellent introduction to the complex world of article level citation data. She does not overstate the case for her software or for using such data for a “mechanistic type of evaluation” [p.109]. Instead she gives a pragmatic account of how academics can use citation data to show how their work is being read and referenced. I would highly recommended The Publish or Perish Book for any researcher who wishes to understand this growing field, and it is full of practical advice. It will be fascinating to see how Google’s own endeavours with citation analysis – until recently untapped outside of Harzing’s work and PoP – influence this landscape further in 2012.

The Publish or Perish Book. Anne-Wil Harzing. September 2010. Tarma Software Research Publishing.

Find this book:  Google Books  Amazon

Learn more about Publish or Perish: See our step by step guide to using Publish or Perish, and read  Why ‘Publish or Perish’ has the edge over Google Scholar and Scopus when it comes to finding out how your work is used by other academics.

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