1.2.2 Use caution when applying citation analysis
This doesn't mean citations are a panacea. Citations are subject to many forms of error, from typographical errors in the source paper, to errors in Google Scholar parsing of the reference, to errors due to some nonstandard reference formats. Publications such as books or conference proceedings are treated inconsistently, both in the literature and in Google Scholar. Thus citations to these works can be complete, completely missing, or anywhere in between.
When using Publish or Perish for citation analyses, I would therefore like to suggest the following general rule of thumb:
- If an academic shows good citation metrics, it is very likely that he or she has made a significant impact on the field.
However, the reverse is not necessarily true. If an academic shows weak citation metrics, this may be caused by a lack of impact on the field, but also by one or more of the following:
- Working in a small field (therefore generating fewer citations in total);
- Publishing in a language other than English (LOTE - effectively also restricting the citation field);
- Publishing mainly (in) books.
Although Google Scholar performs better than the Web of Science in this respect, it still does not provide a comprehensive coverage in capturing LOTE articles and citations, or citations in books or book chapters. As a result, citation metrics in the Social Sciences and even more so in the Humanities will always be underestimated as in these disciplines publications in LOTE and books/book chapters are more likely than in the Sciences.