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In the race for citations, journal editors and authors should work together

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Academia is more and more crowded

Citation count is widely seen as the best proxy of impact in the academic community. The success of authors and journals depends on their citation scores. That is why, both journal editors and authors wonder how to attract the academic community to cite their articles or journals more. And this is why journal editors and authors should work together to solve this problem.

If you are an author, who is not a Nobel Prize Laureate, you are probably wondering how to improve the chances of your work being cited. And believe me, the managing editor of the journal you are submitting your work to is doing exactly the same, because he or she needs your article to be cited, to increase the prestige of the journal. There are several things to think over together in order to maximize the chances for success.

It is necessary to know about an article to cite it

Let’s try to understand the mechanism of citation. Not every article that is read is cited. I might know about 100 articles on one problem, but when I write an article about it, I will probably only cite 20 to 40 of them. The reasons why authors cite one article over another might be different, and they are probably different in various fields. The only thing that is certain is that someone cannot cite an article they have never heard about. Thus, the discoverability of an article is not sufficient to get cited, but it is necessary.

The quality and the novelty of your research, alongside with the popularity of your subject may influence the chances of it being cited. But, discoverability is key to further recognition. Even the most important work cannot be cited if it cannot be found. And academic publishing is more and more crowded, with millions of researchers and tens of thousands of journals worldwide. Competition for visibility is getting harder in every discipline. Part of discoverability is determined by the publication venue almost automatically, with the journal’s popularity and abstracting and indexing services, which are offered by the publisher, but another part depends on the content of the article itself and the way this content is promoted.

Authors should cooperate with publishers to make their research output discoverable. This is good for both parties, but it may also help students, patients, policymakers, journalists, activists and general public. If you think that your article includes some important information, then consider also how to make it easily accessible for everyone else. If no one can find the information, it is useless for society.

I used to write a lot about the different ways of increasing discoverability on this blog (have a look here). I plan to write more on this subject and I will try to show what the cooperation between the author and the editors looks like in terms of increasing the visibility of a paper. For now, I will just point out that it is the responsibility of both the editors and authors. More to come in my next entries.

SEO is not just for robots – it is mostly for humans

More and more people (including professional researchers and students) search for literature using Internet tools and the Internet is increasingly crowded. That is why Search Engine Optimization is a must. And journal editors who want to increase the readership of their serials have to cooperate with authors to optimize articles to make them more discoverable. This is in the common interest of both the journal and the author.

Yes, I know that both authors and editors have enough of work, trying to maintain the high quality of their articles. SEO will not replace scientific quality, but may support it. Search Engine Optimization also means making academic articles more friendly for users (not just for machines). This is because the most popular search engine in the academic world is the human brain, and making articles easier to find also means making them clear and easy to read. However, it is worth stressing here that SEO is not only about writing. It is more and more about images, which should be attractive, well described and in a vector (not raster) format. For more SEO tips have a look here.

So, if you are an author, do not be surprised when your editor asks you to improve your keywords, to slightly change your title or to write a better abstract. And if you are an editor, do not hesitate to talk with authors about SEO. It will help both of you in your work.

Image credit: Dharmadhyaksha.

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  1. Could you please tell me how an author or a journal can know if he is cited? Is there an international standard way to do citation, or the classic way from Microsoft Word, using “Insert Citation” is enough?

    1. Dear Alina,

      Citations are tracked by some institutions and indexed in their databases. An author who wants to know his or her citation score has to keep an eye on these databases. I use SCOPUS and Google Scholar for this purpose. There is also a tool called Impact Story

      At De Gruyter Open we are also trying to inform all researchers that were cited by our authors by e-mail, but this is not the standard procedure.

      Various institutions (grant funders, universities etc.) use various tools for measuring citations of journals or authors, although Scopus and Web of Science are the most popular, thus citations in publications that are not indexed by these databases are less important for career development. Anyway, you can include citation scores taken from different databases on your website or in your CV for example, but you should always remember to include the source of this information.

      There are several standards for citation. The most popular are APA and MLA. Please see Wikipedia for further reading:

      I do not use Microsoft Word, so it’s hard for me to say whether the citation tool is sufficient. I recommend using any tool that supports BibTeX for managing references.

      I hope this helps.

  2. So basically, an author knows if he gets cited depending on the database where the article was published? If I have articles published in national journals, it doesn’t matter for the authors that I cited?
    Also, I had almost 100 citations in my phd thesis. This type of citation doesn’t matter for the “citation count” of those authors? How would they know I cited them?

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