The Impact of Electronic Journals on Scholarly Communication: A Citation Analysis
Harter, Stephen P.
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Many commentators have conjectured about the nature and promise of future scholarly electronic journals, and some have even predicted the eventual demise of the journal in its present paper form.  However, as Ann Okerson wrote, "One can fantasize endlessly about electronic 'journals,' but without active authorship and readership there is nothing."  Even beyond this, e-journals must be used. "Use" implies not only reading e-journals and contributing to them, but building on the findings reported--it implies that the research reported in e-journal articles have an impact on scholars and researchers in the discipline which the e-journal represents. If e-journals have little or no impact on research and researchers, they cannot play an important role in scholarly communication. This article reports hard empirical data on the impact of the first wave of e-journals on the scholarly communities they serve. It assesses the extent to which scholars and researchers are aware of, are influenced by, and build their own work upon research published in e-journals. It does this by examining the artifacts of scholarly communication--the journal article and the references it makes. A citation analysis was conducted for 39 scholarly journals that began electronic publication no later than 1993. Citation data for these journals were tabulated and analyzed. For journals that publish both print and electronic versions, citations to articles published prior to parallel publication were eliminated. The eight most highly cited e-journals were identified. Citation and publication data for three high ranking e-journals in the study were compared to similar data for print journals in the same fields. The seven most highly cited articles from the e-journals in the study were determined. This study is part of a larger project  that studied several of the characteristics of e-journals, including demographics (e.g., number of articles published, publication frequency, language, discipline, and charging policy), access problems and issues, references, and the citation analysis findings reported here. Selected findings from the larger study,  and an examination of access problems and issues  are discussed in separate papers.