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Citation Analysis and Communities of Practice

date: 2014-02-21 21:11


This semester I am teaching a knowledge management (KM) course. I will be posting entries throughout the semester that describe, critique, summarize, outline, etc. KM articles that my students are not reading. The purpose here is to leverage the amount of material I can expose them to.

Article under discussion:

This post is about:

Tight, Malcolm. (2008). Higher education research as tribe, territory and/or community: A co-citation analysis. Higher Education, 55(5), 593-605. doi:

The article was picked by searching the Library and Information Science & Technology Abstracts (LISTA) database, beginning with a thesaurus search for knowledge management and choosing communities of practice as a related term.

Notes and discussion:

The article uses co-citation analysis 1) to explore and map the relationships among academics under the theory that such academics function as communities of practice and also as tribes in their territories. Each concept has similar but different meanings and implications. The author asks questions that highlight these differences:

So, we may ask, if higher education research is conceived of as a territory (though, I would argue, not necessarily a discipline), what tribe or tribes occupy it? Or, alternatively, and as well, do higher education researchers share a sense of joint enterprise, enjoy norms and relationships of mutuality (in contrast to Becher's conclusion), and have a shared repertoire of communal resources, such as to qualify them for identification as a community of practice (Tight, 2008, p. 596).

In order to explore these concepts, the author analyzes the references in a sample of 406 articles about higher education and that were published in non-American English language journals. In using co-citation analysis, examining the degree to which n number of articles cite two or more other articles, it seems the author hopes to map out tribes or communities of practice. For example,

the two most cited authors [in these 406 articles] do not appear to have much in the way of “shared relevance”. Thus, though Clark achieved 73 citations and Ramsden 69, they are only cited together in a mere 5 articles. This suggests, even to the non-expert, that they have been pursuing largely separate research and writing interests within the field of higher education (Tight, 2008, p. 602).

In short, because other higher education researchers do not seem to be frequently citing both Clark and Ramsden in the same articles, it's not likely that they each research similar issues within higher education. Ergo, Clark and Ramsden operate in different tribes and occupy different territories, at least at a particular point in time.

There are a number of ways to explore communities of practice, and while the best ways may involve detailed, in-depth, and highly descriptive approaches (e.g., ethnography akin to the Hara 2) piece we're reading in class), this article highlights how a quantitative approach (co-citation analysis) can offer both a birds eye view of these communities and also direct us to where such communities exist when the existence of those communities may not be so apparent (e.g., researchers working in different geographic locations versus lawyers working in a particular firm). The same approach could be (and has been) applied to an analysis of hyperlinks.

  • categories:
    • academic libraries
    • knowledge management
    • LIS658
blog/citation-analysis-and-communities-of-practice.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/07 10:38 by seanburns