Methods for situating a scholar in their field

I am putting these notes here to remind me of steps and also in case others are curious about doing something similar.

Suppose we want to situate a scholar in their field, for example as part of a tenure review case. One way to do that is to look at the scholar’s papers and see who they are citing:

  1. Go to their Google scholar profile and pull up their papers. Choose some of their most cited papers (reflecting how others see the scholar’s contributions) and some of their most recent papers (reflecting their current thinking).

  2. Construct the network of people that the scholar references in their most prominent work. A low-tech way to do this is to copy/paste bibliographies from the papers into https://anystyle.io/ to put the bibliographies into machine readable format (e.g., bibtex). I like to tag the entries from each paper’s bibliography by the date of the paper’s publication (e.g., by adding a custom field to the bibtex file) so that I can sort and see how the scholar’s reference base has changed over time. Compile the different bibliographies into a library in a reference manager. If you keep duplicate entries you get a sense of the scholar’s key points of reference. A higher-tech way to do this is to use the Connected Papers app. You can look at the graph to find well-cited work that the scholar tends to reference.

  3. Pare down the list to seminal contributions. E.g., keep only entries from relevant general interest and field journals that are highly cited.

Now some analyses:

First, who appears most often in the library? What does the work of these primary referents represent in the literature and how does the current scholar’s work relate?

Second, whose work is being referenced at different times over the course of the scholar’s career (I do this using the custom field described above)? What does this say about how the scholar’s work has evolved alongside the reference literature?

As far as I know, the steps above are not as well-automated as methods to see who else is citing the scholar’s work (there are numerous tools to do that, like the “scholar” package in R). Would love to see someone do it (and welcome any suggestions below).

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2 Replies to “Methods for situating a scholar in their field”

  1. I think Web of Science can do forward citation searches in an automated fashion, but I haven’t used it in years.

    I’ve never understood why Google Scholar doesn’t provide that information; they clearly have it, since their reverse citation search function (“Cited by ##”) relies on it.

  2. Thanks, Jason. Yes I tried all sorts of citation network scrapers for Scholar and haven’t found something to do this yet. I’ll have to give Web of Science a try. I was worried that they might exclude relevant publications (including books), but I will have a look.

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