Canadian Psychological Review (Psychologie Canadienne), 18 (4) p.372, 1977.
Letter to the Editor

One Imperfect Application Does Not Destroy the Value of Citation Analysis

Chairman and President
E-mail: (added in 2001)

16 June 1977

The Editor
Canadian Psychological Review
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
T2N 1N4


Macdonald's comment 1on the article by Buss, "Evaluation of Canadian Psychology Departments based on Citation and Publication Counts," 2criticizes the methodology of the study and its results. However, Macdonald also makes a blanket criticism of the use of citation and publication analysis for evaluation purposes. Perhaps both are unfamiliar not only with the work being done in this area, but also with the Social Sciences Citation Index® ( SSCI® ) and the Science Citation Index® (SCI®) as well.

Data for citations to articles from the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology , although not available from the SSCI , are available from the SCI . Buss's failure to use these data effects only the results of his study, not the general methodology of citation analysis.

Proper application of citation analysis methodology for ranking the impact or quality of departments has yielded information useful to institutions planning for future development or seeking faculty.

The efficacy of the techniques of using citation data for evaluative purposes is demonstrated by the high correlation that Hagstrom 3 obtained between citation data and other correlates of quality of institutions. When using the techniques it is important to remember that the data obtained should be considered an indicator —not an absolute quantification— of quality. Other factors influence quality of individuals and departments, as Macdonald has implied, but citation analysis provides a quick method for obtaining quantitative impact data. Other correlates can be analyzed if a more detailed study is desired.

Had Buss's study design been more rigorous, the result might have been a different order in the rankings of the psychology departments, and Macdonald's objections would be moot. Thus, Macdonald's criticism should have been directed at the rankings, not at the purposes of doing rankings or the technique of using citation analysis.

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D.
Institute for Scientific Information
325 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, U.S.A.


1) Back to text   Macdonald E. Evaluation of Canadian psychology departments based on citation and publication counts: a comment.  Canadian Psychological Review 17:300-301, 1976.

2) Back to text    Buss, R.  Comments on my critics. Canadian Psychological Review 17:305-306, 1976.

3) Back to text   Hagstrom, W.O.  Inputs and outputs and the prestige of American university science departments.  Sociology of Education 44:375-397, 1971.