Most cited articles in political science by decade

I was inspired to do this by Kieran Healy. By inspired I mean he did it for Sociology using data from a colleague and I decided to do the same with Political Science. I even replicated his graph (as much as I could, Greg Eady helped me with the legend).

Here are the top 10 Political Science articles by decade. To be clear, these are the most-cited articles from that particular decade, not those who were the most cited back then.

The data come from the Web of Science database. These results were obtained by searching the “Political Science” and the “International Relations” categories. One important thing to note is that WofS is more conservative in terms of citation count than Google Scholar and that the same exercise done with the latter would probably look quite different.

Some notable articles just missed the cut. For example, Rawls’s “Justice as Fairness” misses the cut for the 1980s by 3 citations. Get on it theorists.

You can also download a pdf version.

In the interest of (my) time, I’ll leave most of the interpretation to you, but here are a few comments:

The APSR seems to have been more “dominant” in the early decades. Four APSR articles are in the top 10 in the 1950s, six in the 1960s, and five in the 1970s. There’s only one article from the flagship journal in the 1990s and three in the 2000s. Hard to say if this is a real trend however.

It is also quite striking to see that the 1980s are not cited that much. The 9th most cited article of the 1990s has more citations than the second most cited article of the 1980s. Although articles published in the 2000s have not been around for that long, they are still cited as frequently as articles from other decades. This is probably due to another clear trend in terms of topic: the rise of methods articles. Look at the titles in the 2000s! It seems that nowadays a surefire way to get cited is to give people tools for their own research.

Three thoughts comparing these results with those from Sociology:

  • I was surprised by the absence of review articles from the Annual Review of Political Science.

  • A lot less citations overall for Political Science articles, perhaps it has to do with the way I searched in WofS.

  • More diversity early on in terms of journals but overall it’s pretty similar (17 for PS, 14 for Soc).

Feel free to comment on these via Twitter (just below). I’ll update this post if need be. There’s no comment section here…no time to moderate.