Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Contributed articles

On the Categorization of Scientific Citation Profiles in Computer Science

On the Categorization of Scientific Citation Profiles in Computer Science, illustration

Credit: Wacomka Art

A consensus in the literature is that the citation profiles of published articles follow a universal pattern—initial growth in number of citations the first two to three years following publication with a steady peak of one to two years and then decline over the rest of the lifetime of the article. This observation has long been the underlying heuristic in determining major bibliometric factors (such as quality of publication, growth of scientific communities, and impact factor of publication venue). Here, we analyze a dataset of 1.5 million computer science papers maintained by Microsoft Academic Search, finding the citation count of the articles over the years follows a remarkably diverse set of patterns—a profile with an initial peak (PeakInit), with distinct multiple peaks (PeakMul) exhibiting a peak later in time (PeakLate) that is monotonically decreasing (MonDec), monotonically increasing (MonIncr), and cannot be categorized into any other category (Oth). We conducted a thorough experiment to investigate several important characteristics of the categories, including how individual categories attract citations, how categorization is influenced by year and publication venue, how each category is affected by self-citations, the stability of the categories over time, and how much each of the categories contribute to the core of the network. Further, we show the traditional preferential-attachment models fail to explain these citation profiles. We thus propose a novel dynamic growth model that accounts for both preferential attachment and the aging factor in order to replicate the real-world behavior of various citation profiles. This article widens the scope for a serious reinvestigation into the existing bibliometric indices for scientific research, not just for computer science.

Back to Top

Key Insights


Quantitative analysis in terms of counting, measuring, comparing quantities, and analyzing measurements is perhaps the main tool for understanding the impact of science on society. Over time, scientific research itself (by recording and communicating research results through scientific publications) has become enormous and complex. This complexity is today so specialized that individual researchers' understanding and experience are no longer sufficient to identify trends or make crucial decisions. An exhaustive analysis of research output in terms of scientific publications is of great interest to scientific communities that aim to be selective, highlighting significant or promising areas of research and better managing scientific investigation.5,24,25,27 Bibliometrics, or "scientometrics,"3,22 or application of quantitative analysis and statistics to publications (such as research articles and accompanying citation counts), turns out to be the main tool for such investigation. Following pioneering research by Eugene Garfield,14 citation analysis in bibliographic research serves as the fundamental quantifier for evaluating the contribution of researchers and research outcomes. Garfield pointed out a citation is no more than a way to pay homage to pioneers, give credit for related work (homage to peers), identify methodology and equipment, provide background reading, and correct one's own work or the work of others.14


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.