7.4 Compare your best papers to the journal average

In Section 7.1, I encouraged you to pick your own reference group. What better reference group than academics who have published in the same journals that you have published in?

The screenshot below compares my paper published in the Journal of World Business in 2001 with other papers published in the same journal in the same year and finds it is the most highly cited paper in the journal in that particular year.

A comparison like this can be particularly effective as it automatically corrects for differences in citation behaviors across disciplines and differences in papers of a different age. You could write this up in your application as: My 2001 paper in Journal of World Business was the most cited paper out of 28 papers and had three times as many citations as the average paper in the journal that year.

You can be creative in this as well. The screenshot below shows my 2001 publication in the Journal of International Business Studies. Unfortunately, it was not the most cited paper in the journal that year, but it was nearly the most cited single-authored paper, which in a top US journal is a significant achievement. Also, given that JIBS published 54 papers that year, I could say that my paper was within the top 15% most cited papers that year.

Journal papers

Journal papers #2

Of course, it will not happen very often that your paper is the most-cited paper in the journal in question. However, even just being able to say that it is within the top-5 or top-10 most cited papers (especially if the journal published quite a lot of papers each year) is a very significant contribution to your case. As above you can also use percentages is this makes your case more impressive.

If you are lucky you have articles that are amongst the most-cited articles in a particular journal over a longer period. If you could say that your article was amongst the top 5% or top 10% most cited articles in a particular journal over its entire history of publication that would make a very strong case, especially if the journal was a particularly well-known journal.

I would not be inclined use this strategy if the journal wasnt particularly well-known. The screenshot below shows that my publication in Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics is the most cited paper in the journal since its inception, even though it was only published in 2008. However, given that most academics in my field will not recognize this journal, this claim would not make my case any stronger.

Journal papers #3

It is not a good idea to use this strategy if your paper was published early in the time period you are reporting on. For instance, if you claim that your paper is amongst the 25% most cited articles in a journal between 2000-2010, and your paper was published in 2000/2001, it is likely that your paper was actually cited less than average for articles in 2000 and 2001. Never boast about papers being in the top 50%, as it just shows your papers are average.

If you do not have any papers that really stand out, but your papers are generally well cited in comparison to the journals they are published in, you could emphasize this. For instance, you could say: on average my articles are amongst the top 20%-30% most cited papers when compared to papers published in the same journal in the same year.

Be careful with this strategy though. Unless you have some papers that have been published in journals that your evaluation committee will recognize as top journals, it will only elicit the comment that you tend to waste your work by publishing in low impact journals.