Citation patterns in Peace and Conflict Studies

A case study of the African Journal on Conflict Resolution

Mrs Oluchi O. Okere is a Librarian in the Federal University of Technology Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria. She holds a master’s degree in Librarianship. Her research interests are publishing and scholarly communication.
Mr Fasae Joseph Kehinde is a Librarian in Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria. He has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science.


In this study, citation analysis was used to investigate the growth pattern and trends in peace and conflict studies as a subject discipline. The significance of peace and conflict studies as an evolving discipline in the social sciences and an area of contemporary interest makes this study relevant. A total of 3761 citations from the 20 issues (108 articles) of the African Journal of Conflict Resolution published from 2004 to 2011 were analysed using frequency counts and percentages. The findings show that books (42.44%) were the most prominent source of information. The books range from current publications to retrospective literature of age above 20 years. Journals (22.7%) and Internet sources (11.11%) also rank high as sources of information. The list of the most cited journals shows a strong geographical bias but a multi-disciplinary scope in which the political sciences feature prominently. The pattern of the average citations per year shows that conflict resolution as a field of study is fast maturing into a distinct body of knowledge. The study recommends that librarians and information users in the field should take cognizance of these trends to enable them to access or utilize the literature optimally. It is also recommends that further studies be carried out in the near future to test how well the findings hold.


The field of peace and conflict studies is a growing field of knowledge that reflects contemporary realities in human communities. Conflict resolution is concerned with techniques, procedures and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of disputes and conflicts. Issues such as negotiation, mediation, diplomacy, peace-building, dispute resolution, arbitration, litigation processes, international conflict, arms races, political interactions, foreign policy, decision making and theories and models of conflict resolution are of interest to practitioners and researchers in this field. Conflict studies as an evolving discipline is complex and its complexity is evident in the number of other disciplines, such as economics, psychology, sociology and political science, that are represented in peace and conflict studies.

In identifying the various impacts of scholarly publications on productivity and quality of work, citation analysis can be used. A citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source. Citation gives researchers or authors the opportunity to acknowledge the intellectual input of ideas from other authors. Citation analysis is a branch of information science in which the researcher studies the way articles in scholarly fields are accessed and referenced (Meho 2007). Citation analysis is the aspect of bibliometric research which deals with the study of these relationships (Smith 1981). Citation analysis, which is the application of statistical methods to citation studies, is also used to determine the impact or popularity of works or authors. It also assists librarians in selecting and evaluating their stock. It is a veritable mine of information about information needs and information-seeking behaviour of users of information in various disciplines. Citation studies enable researchers to study trends in the literature of disciplines in order to determine the characteristics of those various disciplines. Bibliographic coupling, co-citation and citation counts are all varieties of citation studies that have been applied in bibliometric research.

This effort to carry out a citation analysis of the African Journal on Conflict Resolution will investigate an evolving discipline in order to observe trends in the field. í…ström (2009) has explained, scientometric/infometric methods like citation analyses help to map the intellectual and social structures of research fields. This is a major motive of this research.

Literature review

According to Stigler (1994), whatever the motive of a citing author may be, whether to accept, refute or review earlier works, citation counts provide measures of the flow of ‘intellectual influence’ in scientific literature.

Alabi (1989), in his study of the citation pattern of Nigerian scientists, ranked some scientific disciplines in order of scholarliness, basing this on the average number of references per subject area. He also identified the most cited journals. Nwagwu and Egbon (2009) carried out bibliometric research of Nigerian publications in social sciences, arts and humanities listed on the online database of Thompson Scientific in June 2008 to understand the international perspectives of research production and the dynamics of the fields in Nigeria. In a more extensive investigation, Maheswarappa and Usha (1989) studied seed pathology literature and found that in that field citations from journal literature are more prominent than those from books. They also studied the subject-wise scattering, country-wise distribution, chronological distribution, language-wise distribution and language-wise scattering of the journals cited in the two volumes of the book Seed Pathology.

In a study of Cross-Disciplinary Citation Patterns over the 20th century, Zuckerman (2003) studied the relationship between citations in sociology, economics and political science using flagship journals in the three disciplines. He found an increase in sociologists’ interest in economics over the final three decades of the twentieth century as well as an increase in economists’ attention to political science in the last two decades, while sociologists increased their attention to political science. Sridhar’s (1985) findings about the citing patterns of Indian space technologists include a tendency towards self-citation, the citing of journals more than other sources (60.6%), and citing that slanted more towards foreign sources (88.8%). Ajegbomogun and Akintola (2004) identified that 24.20% of the source materials cited in Gateway Library Journal were between five and nine years old and that authors who contributed to the journal preferred to carry out research single-handedly.

í…ström (2009) acknowledged the role of citation analysis as an indicator of scholarly productivity, quality and impact, but also points out that using established quality indicators – such as Garfield’s journal impact factor and the h-index – creates the problem of not considering the differences of publication and citation practices in different research fields or the variations between different kinds of articles – such as research and/or review.

Citation frequency is a function of many variables besides scientific merit – such as an author’s reputation, controversiality of subject matter, circulation, availability and extent of library holdings, reprint dissemination, coverage by secondary services, and priority in allocation of research funds. The way these factors interrelate is not easy to determine (Garfield 1972).


The data used for the research was collected from volumes 4–11 of the African Journal on Conflict Resolution (AJCR) published from 2004 to 2011. The 20 issues generated a total of 3761 sources in the 108 articles. This represents 100% sample size. Only articles are included for analysis, some other forms such as preprints, reviews and brief communications included in the journal are excluded from analysis but are considered if they occur within the references as cited matter.

On its copyright page, this journal is described as follows:

The African Journal on Conflict Resolution is a biannual peer-reviewed journal published by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) for the multidisciplinary subject field of conflict resolution … ACCORD is a non-governmental, non-aligned conflict resolution organisation based in Durban, South Africa … The Journal seeks to publish articles and book reviews on subjects relating to conflict, its management and resolution, as well as peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding in Africa. It aims to be a conduit between theory and practice.

A frequency count and analysis of the citations was carried out to investigate the following variables: frequency distribution for the forms of the sources cited, the sources/forms cited by year of publication, the ages of the different citations according to their forms, the average citations per year, geographical affiliation of contributors, most frequently cited journals and most cited authors.

The group of sources classified as others include formats such as unpublished reports, letters, newsletters and bulletins, personal correspondence, news, archival materials and other grey literature.

Results and discussions

Section 1: Sources of Information

A count of the citations in all the volumes in the study provided the following data:

Table 1: Sources of cited material

Sources Frequency Cumulative Frequency Percentage
1. Books 1596 1596 42.44
2. Journals 834 2430 22.17
3. Internet (e-journals/e-books/websites) 418 2848 11.11
4. Reports 362 3210 9.63
5. Conference proceedings 206 3416 5.48
6. Newspapers 94 3510 2.50
7. Oral interviews 59 3569 1.57
8. Govt. documents 57 3626 1.52
9. Theses and dissertations 54 3680 1.44
10. Others 81 3761 2.15
Total 3761 100

Books (42.44%) were the most cited materials in the Journal, followed by journals (22.17%) and the Internet (11.11%). This shows that these researchers in conflict and peace studies depended more heavily on books than on other information sources. Archambault and Vignola-Gagné (2004) confirm that in social science and humanities books play a greater role than articles, unlike in the sciences and engineering. Gooden (2001), in her citation analysis of chemistry doctoral dissertations of Ohio State University between 1996–2000, also confirms more reliance on journals (85.8%) than on monographs (8.9%), and similar patterns were also indicated for other disciplines in science and engineering (Eckel 2009) and seed pathology (Maheswarappa and Usha 1989).

Books might also be more common with peace and conflict researchers because of the relative youthfulness of the discipline. It can be assumed that until it gets to be more prominent as an independent field of study when the research base is more developed, research may still depend heavily on books. Dalton and Charnigo (2004) found that historians consulted books very heavily (indicated by 99% of the respondents) as well as journal articles (indicated by 98% of the respondents) and manuscripts (indicated by 94% of the respondents). This was, however, different from earlier researches which indicated a wider difference in the frequency count between books and journal articles. They therefore raised questions concerning the unusual ratios.

Section 2: Distribution of citation by year of journal publication and by article

The distribution of the citations according to the year of publication is tabulated below. The table also shows the average citations per article per year. The graph is a scatter diagram that illustrates the distribution.

Table 2: Distribution of citation by year of journal publication

Year and numbers of issues, and articles Number of sources cited Percentage of total number of sources cited Average of sources cited per article
2004 (2, 11) 258 6.86 23.45
2005 (2, 9) 347 9.23 38.56
2006 (2, 9) 216 5.74 24.00
2007 (2, 16) 569 15.13 35.56
2008 (3, 12) 549 14.60 45.75
2009 (3, 14) 525 13.96 37.50
2010 (3, 19) 670 17.81 35.26
2011 (3, 18) 627 16.67 34.83
Total 3761 100

Figure 1: Average of sources cited per article in each year


The citation distribution indicates that across the years from 2004 to 2008 there was an irregular pattern in the number of materials cited by year. In 2008 there was a peak and then a fall in 2009, but from 2009 to 2011 the trend becomes regular. Archambault and Vignola-Gagné (2004) suggest that citation counts can be used to identify an emerging field since the annual number of publications in an emerging field is bound to be low but tends to increase each year. They explain the potentials of this type of model to generate rough estimates of the future growth of disciplines as well as a method of analysing structural dynamics. From the observed pattern it may be assumed that the field of peace and conflict studies is attaining a level of maturity among other social science disciplines.

Section 3: Age of information material cited

Table 3 shows the age of the materials cited, broken down by form of publication.

Table 3: Age of information materials cited

Format/Age <5 yrs 5–9 yrs 10–14 yrs 15–19 yrs 20 yrs and above Total
Book 382 359 291 217 347 1596
Conference 74 64 34 22 11 206
Government pub. 12 14 11 10 10 57
Internet 292 78 30 12 6 418
Journal 293 238 131 77 95 834
Newspaper 37 23 3 5 26 94
Oral interview 38 20 1 59
Report 148 109 62 21 22 362
Thesis and Dissertation 20 16 7 8 3 54
Others 15 10 13 9 34 81
Total 1311 931 583 381 554 3761

In Table 3, the total cited materials below 5 years constitute 34.9% of all the citations, while the total number of articles below 10 years constitutes 59.6%. The Table thus shows a heavy dependence on materials below 10 years. Books (19.7%) and journals (13.9%) below 10 years old ranked highest followed by Internet (9.8%) and reports (6.8%) of that age range. This agrees with the findings of Garfield (1972) whose studies have shown that the typical cited article is most heavily cited during the 2 years after its year of publication and that in any given year, 21 to 25 percent of all references are to sources that are 3 or fewer years old. This is significant since none of the articles used in this analysis is older than nine years old (2004–2011). Materials between 15–19 years were the least consulted among the materials. Interestingly, however, books, journals and newspapers of over 20 years have a higher frequency than those of 15–19 years, thereby reversing the observed growing trend of dependence on more current information resources. The oldest cited material was a treatise on Liberty by J.S. Mill in 1869 and another book entitled Lebensformen written in 1921 by Spranger. The most recent one was a reference to an article by Andrea de Guttry published in AJCR in 2011. The implication is that conflict and peace research require both current and older/archival resources.

The pattern of use of Internet resources shows an astronomic growth in the more recent years. This shows a growing dependence on the Internet as a source of information for peace and conflict researchers. Oral interviews and theses/dissertations also become steadily more relevant in recent times as observed in Table 3.

Section 4: Most frequently cited journals

Table 4 lists 20 most frequently cited journals in ranked order.

Table 4: Ranked list of most cited journals

Names of Journals Rank Frequency Cumulative frequency
1. African Affairs 1 21 21
2. Journal of Modern African Studies 2 19 40
3. African Journal on Conflict Resolution 3 18 58
4. African Research Bulletin 4 14 72
5. Journal of African Elections 5 9 81
6. International Peacekeeping 5 9 90
7. Conflict Trends 7 8 98
8. African insights 7 8 106
9. Journal of Democracy 7 8 14
10 Review of African Political Economy 7 8 122
11. Ocean & Coastal Management 7 8 130
12. Political Geography 12 7 137
13. Journal of Southern African Studies 13 6 143
14. Journal of Conflict Resolution 13 6 149
15. African Security Review 13 6 155
16. Yale Law Journal 13 6 161
17. World Development 17 5 166
18. Review 17 5 171
19. Comparative Studies in Society & History 17 5 176
20. International Affairs 17 5 181

Citation analysis can also be used to determine the core journals in a field of study. The list above shows a ranked list of the most cited journals in peace and conflict resolution. African Affairs, Journal of Modern African Studies and African Journal on Conflict Resolution are the most cited journals in that order. However, the geographical bias (African) observed in the geographical coverage of the journals indicates that at least nine of the journals have African affiliations. This shows that the discipline depends heavily on the social and political environment, unlike a similar list of twenty core journals in chemistry Gooden (2001) which does not indicate any geographical bias in resources consulted/cited.

Bradford’s Law (1985) states that a set of cited journal titles can be subdivided into subsets with one subset representing a few titles that account for a large percentage of works cited, and the other subsets representing a group of many journal titles that are less frequently cited in a regular pattern of dispersion. The list above agrees with that law. This Law is also affirmed by Gooden (2001) and other studies.

Section 5: Most cited authors

Table 5 shows a ranked list of the most cited authors.

Table 5: Most cited authors

Author Rank Frequency
1. Mamdani, Mahmood 1 19
2. Mayer, Claude-Hélène 2 13
3. Ake, Claude 2 13
4. Apuuli, K.P. 4 11
5. Ranger, Terence 4 11
6. De Coning, Cedric H. 6 10
7. Osaghae, E.E. 6 10
8. Schwartz, S.H. 8 9
9. Young,C. 8 9
10. Adebayo, Adekeye 8 9
11. Kriesberg, Louis 11 8
12. Okon, R.N. 11 8
13. Turner, N.S. 11 8
14. Burton, J.W. 14 7
15. Goldblatt, Bret 14 7
16. Matlosa, K. 14 7
17. Okelo, M.M. 14 7
18. Omotola, J. Shola 14 7
19. Anstey, Mark 19 6
20. Chambers, R. 19 6
21. Collier, P. 19 6
22. Nathan, Laurie I. 19 6
23. Sithole, Masipula 19 6
24. Zartman, I. William 19 6

Oyeniyi and Bozimo (2004) who studied author characteristics of sorghum researchers explained that identifying core authors in a field has value in terms of providing information by direct contact and interpersonal communication to such experts as well as providing information to assist in acquisition and dissemination activities by librarians. The ranked list shows the most prolific authors in the field of conflict resolution according to the citation count of AJCR. The list highlighted that Mahmood Mamdani was the most cited author (cited 19 times). He was followed by Claude-Hélène Mayer and Claude Ake cited in 13 times respectively. Other authors highly cited in AJCR were also ranked in accordance with the number of times they were cited.


Citation studies have been found to be a useful basis for collection development and also in understanding trends in research in various disciplines. This citation study has analysed various variables in peace and conflict research to investigate trends in citation by researchers whose articles appeared in the African Journal on Conflict Resolution. This study is particularly relevant since within the social sciences the field of conflict resolution has earned much significance because of the ever increasing level of conflict and dispute situations in Africa and all over the world.

The findings include a prevalent dependence on book sources but journal and Internet sources follow closely behind. The books consulted ranged from current literature to a large percentage of literature more than 20 years old. The discipline is also geographically biased towards African affiliated journals. The twenty most cited journals in the case study indicate peace and conflict studies to be multi-disciplinary with a tendency towards political science, law and economics. These findings do not only have implications for librarians, publishers and editors of journals but also for discerning researchers whose goal is to optimally cover the literature of the field.

Further studies may seek to find out if these findings point to a continuing trend or whether these characteristics will change as the literature of the field matures. The geographical bias indicated in this study may also be confirmed by observing its occurrence with other collections of journals in the field in other geographical locations.


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