Google Scholar: Stray citations

Stray citations

Google Scholar results (and thus Publish or Perish) often report multiple occurrences of the same publication. Please note that this is not the same as multiple web versions of the same paper as these are normally aggregated under one master record.

What we mean here are "stray citations" that have not been aggregated under the master record. These 2nd (and sometimes 3rd and further) versions typically only have a small number of citations each. Stray citations are generally the result of misspelling of an author’s name, the title of the publication or the journal, or listing of the wrong volume, issue or page numbers. They can also occur through Google Scholar parsing errors.

Most stray citations are of the [citation] document type

Most stray citations are of the Google Scholar document type “[citation]”. These are results to which Google Scholar found references, but for which the original work was not found online. However, the reverse is not necessarily true: not all results with a "[citation]" document type are stray citations.

Most books and book chapters, and non-print works such as software programs will have a “[citation]” document type. Two of my own more highly cited works – a research monograph and the Publish or Perish software - carry the [citation] document type.

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Publish or Perish features to deal with stray citations

Publish or Perish has two features that allow you to deal with stray citations.

  1. First, you can use the Uncheck CITATION button, which deselects all [citation] records and removes them from the citation metrics.
  2. Second, if you consider the stray citations to be valid, you can merge them simply by dragging them onto the master record.

Stray citations in the Web of Science

It is important to note that stray citations are not unique to Google Scholar. They are prevalent in the Web of Science as well if you use the "Cited Reference" search [which includes references to books and non-ISI listed journals] rather than the general search function.

Culture's consequences: a highly cited book

One of the most-cited academics in the field of Management – Geert Hofstede – has published a book called "Culture’s Consequences". This book was first published in 1980, with a 2nd revised edition in 2001. These two versions respectively have more than 8700 and more than 5500 citations under the title "Cultures Consequence".

More than 100 stray citation records for Culture's consequences

However, there are also more than 100 additional stray citation records in ISI’s Cited Reference search, all referring to the same two books. Some of these entries refer to specific page numbers in the book and hence have been entered as separate entries. Others refer inaccurately to different publication years or misrepresent the book’s title as "Cultural Consequences".

Weird title variations probably caused by data entry errors

Many stray entries in ISI are simple misspellings of the title, with some of the weirdest being “CULTURES CIONSEQUENC”, “CULTUES UCULTURES CO”, and “CULTURES OCNSEQUENCE”. In many of these cases, the references were actually correct in the referring works and the spelling errors appear to have been made by ISI data entry staff. Most of these inaccurate references only occur once or twice, but a substantial number has a double-digit number of citations, with three accumulating more than 50 citations.

In fact Google Scholar does a better job than WoS with stray citations

Ironically, none of the more than 14000 citations to this work was presented correctly, as its title is "Culture’s Consequences", not "Cultures Consequence". The reason for the wrong tile is that the Web of Science does not seem to be able to deal with apostrophes and has a fixed 20-character length for the Cited Work record. In contrast, Google Scholar has less than 30 variations of this title. Hence Google Scholar’s aggregation mechanism might actually be better than the Web of Science!

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