12.1.1 How to select your population?
The first important question in doing bibliometric research is which population to study. Of course this is largely dependent on your research question. If your aim is to study the impact of different data sources or different metrics for comparisons across disciplines (see Chapter 16 for an extended example), you will obviously need to select academics from a broad range of disciplines. However, most academic who do bibliometric research on authors aim to create some sort of ranking of individual authors, which necessitates a more focused population. The following options are possible.
Pick a specific discipline
In order for this ranking to make any sense to your readers, it is usually best to limit your population by discipline. As we have seen in Chapter 7, however, even within disciplines there can be very substantial differences in typical citation scores. Hence your definition of discipline might need to be fairly narrow. The examples given in Section 12.1.3 refer to Economics, Business Administration, (Operations) Management and Social Psychology. In the latter case, the researchers purposefully decided to focus on Social Psychology only, and not include for instance Clinical Psychology, where citation patterns would be very different.
Pick a specific country
An additional way to narrow down your population is by country. All of the studies discussed in Section 12.1.3 refer to particular countries (Israel, Germany, UK/USA, and USA/Canada). This both limits the scope of the data collection effort and reduces differences caused by different research traditions in different countries. As most of these studies aim to produce norm scores of some sort, this is a good thing. Obviously, if your research question related to comparing the impact of different research traditions on citation patterns, your choice would be different.
Pick academics who share specific attributes
As even narrowing down the population by discipline or country can leave one with a large number of academics a study, most studies narrow down their field even further by studying academics who share specific attributes. These attributes could for instance be:
- Working at the top 5/10/20 universities (however defined) in the country
- Being a fellow of one of the major professional association in the discipline
- Being editor or editorial board member of one of journals in the discipline
- Having been president of a major professional association in the field
- Having won a major research award (e.g. dissertation award, Nobel prize)
- Having done their PhD at a specific set of institutions.
Obviously, your selection would need to make sense in the context of your research questions. There are only so many simple exploratory ranking studies that can be published, even if you are personally very interested in the results.