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The citation trap: Papers published at year-end receive systematically fewer citations
Chao Ma1,2; Yiwei Li3; Feng Guo4; Kao Si5

The present research reveals that academic papers published at year-end on average receive systematically fewer citations than papers published at other times in the year. Using more than 200,000 papers  in econmics published between 1956 and 2010, the results of our analysis show that papers published between October and December on average get as much as 18.5% fewer citations than those published in the other months in the year. We refer to this phenomenon as the citation trap as there is no evidence that papers published at different times in the year differ in their acadmic quality. We propose that the current effect could arise because of the time window options in most online academic search engines: the specific setting of those options leads papers published at year-end to appear in the engines' search results for a systematically shorter period of time as compared to papers published at other months in the year. Our analysis reveals evidence that is consistent with the proposed mechanism and that rules out several alternative explanations. Implications of the current research for academia and possible solutions to mitigate the citation trap are discussed.

KeywordCitation Publication Timing Year-end Search Engine
Indexed BySSCI ; SSCI
WOS Research AreaBusiness & Economics
WOS SubjectEconomics
WOS IDWOS:000496607700034
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Cited Times [WOS]:0   [WOS Record]     [Related Records in WOS]
Document TypeJournal article
CollectionFaculty of Business Administration
Corresponding AuthorFeng Guo
Affiliation1.School of Public Health, Southeast University, No.87, Dingjiaqiao Road, Nanjing, 210009, China
2.School of Public Health, Yale University, U.S
3.Department of Marketing and International Business, SEK101, 1/F Simon and Eleanor Kwok Building, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, China
4.School of Public Economics and Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, No.777, Guoding Road, Shanghai, 200433, China
5.Faculty of Business Administration, University of Macau, E22, Avenida da Universidade, Macau, Taipa, China
Recommended Citation
GB/T 7714
Chao Ma,Yiwei Li,Feng Guo,et al. The citation trap: Papers published at year-end receive systematically fewer citations[J]. JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION,2019,166:667-687.
APA Chao Ma,Yiwei Li,Feng Guo,&Kao Si.(2019).The citation trap: Papers published at year-end receive systematically fewer citations.JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION,166,667-687.
MLA Chao Ma,et al."The citation trap: Papers published at year-end receive systematically fewer citations".JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION 166(2019):667-687.
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