Citation Pattern in the Social Sciences

Drawing on the work of Derek J. de Solla Price, Merton noted, in 1968, that 60 to 70 percent of citations in the physical sciences referred to books and articles published in the preceding five years; in the humanities the figures ranged from 10 to 20 percent; and in the social sciences the figures ranged from 30 to 50 percent. Thus, at least in 1968, the social sciences were in-between the natural sciences and the humanities, which, according to Merton, was a good thing. While adopting the orientation and practice of the natural sciences, sociology has insisted on keeping “a first hand acquaintance with the classical works of sociology as an integral part of the experience of the sociologist qua sociologist” (1968:29–30). As far as I know, no one has looked at how the citation pattern in the social sciences changed since 1968. My guess (informed by looking at a small sample of articles published in AJS and ASR) is that there has been a shift toward the natural sciences. So, have the classics lost their relevance?! The following graph shows the distribution of the dates of citations in my (apparently very humanistic) dissertation.


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