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Abstract

Citation rates are important criteria for judging an author’s impact in the research community or discipline. They form one of the many indicators of research quality that help people less familiar with a field understand the effectiveness of a research paper or individual. The contents of a bibliography or set of references are also markers that help orient the reader to the framework of a piece of writing. Lately, journal publishers have paid increased attention to citation rates as more and more journals vie to be included in abstracting and indexing services. These lists act as a filter for libraries and bulk subscription brokers, so they can affect circulation and hence, revenue. Because of this, some journals have required authors to cite prior papers from the same journal when submitting research, even going so far as to specify how many citations are needed for a paper to be considered. This paper argues that commercial considerations must not outweigh the primary academic purpose of a citation list. Not only are there a host of conventions associated with citations that arise from author integrity and community relationships, but the bibliography is itself research data for another discipline. Compelling and precise portraits of researchers can be derived from such data. A case from library science on the late Rob Kling’s sources illustrates the value of preserving the integrity of citations for the purpose of building and understanding a discipline, not a revenue stream.

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