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Free Content Reward or persuasion? The battle to define the meaning of a citation

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The history and development of the Science Citation Index (SCI) is an example of the power of users in defining and influencing the development of a new technology. The SCI was developed as a tool for the historian of science for the purpose of tracing the history of ideas, but it was appropriated by users for purposes for which it was unintended – as a tool for evaluating the literature, individuals, institutions, and countries. The development of a citation tool gave rise to a debate over what is actually measured by citations. The citation-as-reward camp views citations as indicators of quality and impact, whereas the citation-as-persuasion camp views citations as no more than rhetorical devices. While neither view can fully explain how authors use citations, citation-as-reward prevails as the dominant interpretation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Editor in Chief: Pippa Smart
    North American Editor: Judy Luther

    Learned Publishing is the journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, published in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing. The journal is published quarterly in January/April/July/October.

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