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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Journal Citation Frequency: The Hyperbolic Pattern


This study introduces a new way to measure the visibility of political science journals. Journal citation frequencies in two overviews of political science are found to approximate the hyperbolic pattern. On this basis, the number of citations for the top journal enables us to calculate the total number of citations in the source within 1 percent and also, with much lesser precision, the total number of journals cited. The pattern observed is well known in a very different field, namely the size of cities. This pattern has thus considerable generality and deserves further attention to its theoretical basis. At the same time, the following empirical findings are of interest.

U.S. and non–U.S. political scientists agree on the predominance of journals published in the U.S. Shortfalls from hyperbolic expectations for third- and fourth-ranked journals may reflect the absence of strong central journals in Europe and East Asia. In terms of risk of rejection versus visibility: when accepted, one may be "most bang for the buck" by submitting work to European Journal of Political Research, Political Studies, and Public Choice –and the least when submitting to Philosophy and Public Affairs and Political Theory. Political science is found to receive impulses from economics and sociology, less so from psychology and philosophy, and almost none from anthropology.

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