Although traditionally used other resources, bibliographic research can also consist of electronic media such as audio and video recordings, and films. In the same way, they can format part online resources such as websites, blogs and bibliographic databases.
According to the UNA (1999), easy access to computers and mobile devices makes countless sources of information available to researchers almost instantaneously. The convenience of online information sources is an advantage. However, the speed of access to the material should not prevail over the need for quality or reliability of the content.
Scientific journals as the main means of bibliographic research
Scientific journals are the main means of bibliographic research and publication of scientific research. They present the main results of the research and constitute inputs for new ones.
Bibliographic research is an arduous and time-consuming task. Although information technology, by providing powerful search tools, has effectively contributed to the identification of potential query sources, the exponential growth in the amount of information available has increasingly complicated searches. In the same way it has influenced the decisions on the best sources to adopt.
Currently, some scientific researchers strive to facilitate access to desirable information by classifying journals.
Criteria for classifying scientific journals
Several criteria have been used to classify scientific journals, especially the impact factor. This is calculated by dividing the total number of citations in a given year of articles from a specific scientific journal, published during the previous two years in a specific set of scientific journals, by the number of scientific articles published by the same scientific journal during the same period.
This criterion is currently one of the most used to evaluate the quality of a scientific journal. In fact, several authors and organizations adopt the impact factor as an indicator of quality. Thus, according to several authors, the main objective of the ranking is to evaluate the quality of published scientific journals.
Some scientific editors consider that the bibliometric indicators used to assess scientific impact do not measure quality. However, they are considered useful as additional tools in the evaluation of scientific research.
According to Altuve (1990), one of the main and necessary steps in any research methodology is to correctly assess the state of knowledge in your field of research. There are three basic approaches to conducting research of this type: (1) the Delphi method, (2) meta-analysis, and (3) content analysis.
The Delphi method, which was created as a forecasting method that makes use of the opinions of independent experts, can be adapted to the investigation of the state of knowledge. Due to time constraints and the availability of experts, the Delphi method is very rarely used in thesis and dissertation research processes. What does usually happen, at least with regard to seminal works, is that the professors who direct the theses are consulted. However, unfortunately they do not benefit from the interactions that occur in the Delphi method.
Meta-analysis is a statistical method that performs a combined analysis of the quantitative results of several previous empirical studies. Using these results, since they are statistically compatible (data from different studies have the same characteristics), can solve problems such as the lack of statistical power of each individual study. It is a common method in evidence-based medicine research.
The origin of content analysis lies in the study of the meanings of the content of textual communication. It uses ways to select and categorize significant parts of the text according to a defined theoretical framework.
To deal with this amount of information, researchers have used rankings to define which journals to investigate. Due to the nature of their study, they use a closed set of journals and, therefore, bibliographic references. On the other hand, in master’s and doctoral research, the continuous construction of theoretical references characterizes a continuous process and therefore uses an open set of references.
Since the early 90s, with the appearance of the first browsers of the World Wide Web, many search mechanisms were made available. Huge amounts of scientific articles could be found just by typing a few keywords. The use of keywords in these web search mechanisms does not always lead to a thorough assessment of the state of the art of knowledge in a particular field of research. This is because there are many different keyword coding schemes.
Ways of classifying in Bibliographic Research
It is important to note that, to rank articles, most authors use keywords. Libraries define the descriptors of books (subjects), for cross-reference purposes, based on the thesaurus. However, the authors of an article are usually free to use the keywords they want. There is no universally agreed set of them.
This is especially true in the case of cutting-edge research, where new concepts and terms are defined, and such keywords are frequently suggested and reviewed. The plethora of different keywords, some of which represent the same concept or very similar concepts, makes keyword-based bibliographic research very difficult for researchers. For example, when they need to apply these keywords in web search mechanisms.
Some researchers draw attention to the importance of formalizing a clear research strategy based on classifications in the literature review phase. Within the scope of its study, the content analysis of the articles chosen according to the keywords was adopted. This in order to define the state of the art in the research of strategic alliance networks.
They propose a 6-step method:
(1) determine, through the use of rankings, which journals to research;
(2) review the articles published during the last five years in the selected journals;
(3) evaluate the keywords of the article;
(4) build a data table;
(5) determine research flows; and
(6) do a keyword analysis.
Bibliometric indicators are used to index scientific journals. Ranking is one of the processes used to index and qualify the most recognized by the scientific community.
Institute for Scientific Information
One of the types of ranking most cited by various authors is that carried out by the Institute for Scientific Information [ISI] (http://www.isinet.com). The ISI develops a bibliometric indicator of scientific journals based on the impact factor. However, it does not analyze the impact factor of all scientific journals.
Journal of Citation Reports
The classification of scientific journals according to the impact factor is published by the Journal of Citation Reports [JCR] of the ISI on an annual basis since 1975. The criteria used by the ISI to evaluate scientific journals are
(1) the basic publication standards of journals (including publication schedule, adherence to international editorial conventions, bibliographic information in English – title, keywords, abstract and citations);
(2) the editors of the journal; and
(3) the international diversity of authors and publishers (ISI, 2005).
Online Scientific Library
Another important entity is the Online Scientific Library [SciELO] (http://www.scielo.br). It began in 1997 as a partnership between the Research Support Foundation of the State of São Paulo [FAPESP] (http://www.fapesp.br) and the Health Sciences Information Center of Latin America and the Caribbean [BIREME] (http://www.bireme.br). It has the support of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development [CNPq] (http://www.cnpq.br) since 2002. The objective of SciELO is to develop a methodology to prepare, store, disseminate and evaluate scientific production in electronic format. It also produces performance indicators by monitoring access to scientific journals in electronic format and analyzing the impact factor to decide whether or not to keep a publication in its database.
Bibliometric indicators are also used to assess the productivity and quality of scientific research by measuring the number of publications and citations of researchers. These indicators are useful because they help researchers decide where to publish.
As social scientists need more space to present their arguments, they prefer to publish their proposals in books. Scientific journals provide accessibility and visibility simultaneously.
Although it is impossible to measure the use of an article in a scientific journal, it is possible to verify the effect of scientific articles by measuring their frequency of use and identifying where they have been cited in other scientific articles.
They also believe that the publication of articles in scientific journals is influenced by the reputation of the authors. Thus, well-known authors who belong to prestigious educational institutions have more opportunities to be published. As we will see below, classification is often used by many authors and the impact factor is one of the most pragmatic classification criteria.
Types of Measurement
According to Altuve (1990), the rankings seek to observe aspects of journals, such as the importance of the teaching staff, frequency of use, quality, contribution, production preference and influence. According to these authors, who conducted an extensive review of the literature produced by researchers who have tried to classify scientific journals in the area of information systems over the past 20 years, the classifications can use one of the following three types of measurement.
1) Citations – revealed preference study
2) Perception of a representative group: study of the indication of preference of a randomly chosen group
3) Perception of an elite group: study of the indication of preference of a group of intentionally selected specialists
Citations as a Form of Measurement
In the opinion of some authors, studies that use the perception of an elite group help to focus attention on journals that publish high-quality research.
Data relating to the perception of a representative group of researchers
Other authors argue that the best type of analysis is based on data relating to the perception of a representative group of researchers.
To overcome this deficiency, these authors began allowing respondents to add other journals to their original list. These authors consider that each researcher has his favorite group of scientific journals, which includes those that he has read or in which he has published or has been cited. Other authors, however, believe that there is a strong correlation between objective and subjective ways of measuring the quality of scientific journals.
The Validity of Scientific Journals
Journals can be more valuable if researchers consider them to be of higher quality. Although many authors have conducted quality classification studies of scientific journals in the last 15 years.
They also noted that each study produced a classification at a certain time. This led some authors to criticize the fact that the rankings did not take into account the age of the scientific journal and that the studies carried out covered a relatively short period of time.
In summary, regardless of the criteria used to classify scientific journals – citations, perception of a representative group, perception of an elite group or other hybrid forms – according to our literature review, classifications are generally considered to influence the evaluation of the quality of scientific journals and are considered relevant by the scientific community.
Impact factor in Bibliographic Research
The impact factor deserves special attention because of its importance and because it is the preferred indicator for the academic world. Some authors have criticized the use of the impact factor to evaluate scientific journals.
The selection of journals to be used can have a significant impact on the outcome of the evaluation. Especially if journals have a high rate of self-citation, and if there is a possibility for each author to cite their own articles.
Until recently, rankings did not receive the attention they receive today. Articles published in English are more likely to be cited than those written in other languages. Articles published in local scientific journals have a lower impact factor than when published in international scientific journals.
If used with the necessary awareness of its limitations, the impact factor could be an important and very useful indicator.
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Altuve, S.(1990). Research Methodology. Instructional Module. Caracas: Universidad Experimental Simón Rodríguez.
Council of Education, Science and Technology (2001) Social Sciences on the Internet. Merida: Curricular Materials
UNA (1999) Documentation and research techniques. Caracas: National Open University
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