Citation Counts in Business Schools: Why They Matter, and How to Get Them

Dr. Guy Assaker and Dean Wassim Shahin authored a paper identifying the factors that influence citation counts in the business field, specifically journal articles collected from a medium research output business school in the Middle East.

By Ghalia Al-Alwani

Dr. Wassim Shahin, dean of the Adnan Kassar School of Business (AKSOB) and professor of business economics, and Dr. Guy Assaker, AKSOB assistant dean and professor of hospitality and marketing have published a research study titled “What Drives Faculty Publication Citations in the Business Field? Empirical Results from an AACSB Middle Eastern Institution” in a Scopus-ranked journal that has major practical implications on how business schools can improve their citation counts, and therefore their rankings.

“As Middle Eastern universities and business schools are now catching up to the citations and ranking game to enhance their visibility in the world educational scene, the findings of this study constitute a first step in providing these schools with proper guidance on how to achieve this goal,” explains Dean Shahin.

The number of citations academic articles collect, as the professors clarify in their paper, has become a critical measure of the ranking, as well as scholarly performance, of academic institutions in recent years.

Citation counts are not only considered by accreditation bodies in their assessment of scholarly impact and the visibility of their accredited institutions, but they are also used internally to calculate merit and promotional decisions of faculty members of said institutions.

Accordingly, Dean Shahin and Dr. Assaker embarked on an investigation of how journal-, article-, and author-related factors combine to influence the number of citation counts in the business field specifically, using 236 journal articles by full-time tenure track faculty at AKSOB between 2017 and 2021.

For example, the paper helps to determine whether a 10-page economics article published in a highly ranked journal with a low-prestige co-author is likely to generate higher citations than a 25-page finance article published in a mid-ranked journal with high-prestige co-authors.

AKSOB, which comprises the six departments that cover all business subfields, states the paper, provided a representative example for the study as a medium research output business school in the Middle East accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and ranked by the Times Higher Education and QS.

The results of their study indicated that articles published in Q1 WoS journals – the first position of the top 25 percent of journals in the business category – particularly those co-authored by prestige authors, resulted in the highest citation count.

This means that business faculty in medium business schools should aim for Q1 papers, especially in the Web of Science listing, while making sure to include or collaborate with at least one author with an h-index greater than 20. The h-index refers to an author-level metric that measures the citation impact of publications, and at 20 or above, represents the markings of a successful academic.

Their second recommendation for faculty who are limited to publishing in Q2-Q3 journals in WoS only, is to target the domain of business and management instead of interdisciplinary subjects.

They extend this advice to faculty in economics as well, explaining that business and management journals have a higher citation count given the different topics that fall under that umbrella.

“Given the interconnected nature of different business topics, business journals tend to generate more readings and circulation, and hence more citations than their counterparts in economics, which is generally considered a standalone discipline,” explains Dr. Assaker.   

Dean Shahin and Dr. Assaker also share their ideas on how to start implementing changes that can push faculty at a business school toward making use of these recommendations. For example, one is to provide monetary awards to faculty who achieve a co-author role with well-established business scholars in a Q1 WoS publication, to incentivize other members to do the same. Another is for administrators to set up internal joint research platforms, giving the economics faculty more leeway to collaborate with the business faculty, therefore benefitting from the more prevalent business journals that collect more citation counts.

Further studies are needed, state the authors, that incorporate larger samples from business schools worldwide with different research statuses and assess paper content and thoroughness. Furthermore, given the excessive practice of improving citations through self-citation or cross-citation by institutional colleagues, these could be excluded from future research on the topic.

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