Exploring Web of Science and the scholarly conversation

People at conference table
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Recently we librarians explored some features in Web of Science.  These features can help us map out scholarly conversations.  Since the database–despite its name–covers topics outside of science, I’ll search for “leadership development.”

The Analyze Results feature allows us to spot patterns.  When, for example, were most of the results published?    In my case the number of articles  rose steadily between 2008 and 2017, with a jump between 2013 and 2015 .   The  ACRL Framework notes “changes in scholarly perspective over time” (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2016, Scholarship as Conversation section, Knowledge Practices subsection).  At the very least we can track changes in amount of coverage over time.

We can also generate Citation Reports on our results.    The most cited article from my search (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995)  averaged 78.63 citations per year.  This detail clues us in to a talked-about article.  Then we can “identify the contribution” of that article to the field (ACRL, 2016, Scholarship as Conversation section, Knowledge Practices subsection).  The most cited article was from 1995.  Might it be a seminal article?

This was an oversimplified example.  The analysis can yield other information: key authors, organizations, or even funding agencies.  Still, we can use such information to listen to scholarly conversations in our respective areas.


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from ACRL website : http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework

Graen, G. B., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 219-247. doi: 10.1016/1048-9843(95)90036-5



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