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Citation Network Analysis

Guide to Citation Network Analysis, with definitions, examples, and a tutorial

About this guide

This guide is intended for SJSU students and faculty who are interested in learning to perform basic citation network analysis (CNA). The guide is based on a workshop created by Nick Szydlowski and Christa Bailey.

SJSU faculty: if you would be interested in including a workshop like this in one of your classes, please let us know!

What is citation network analysis?

Citation network analysis is the application of network or graph analysis to patterns of citation between scholarly publications. It is practiced in a variety of academic disciplines as a way of better understanding the ways that researchers interact, or the relationships between clusters of topics or ideas within a given field.

Network analysis

Network analysis uses the mathematical concept of the graph to analyze networks of people, entities, or other objects of interest.
In this context, a graph expresses the relationships between a set of objects.

  • Objects on the graph can be called nodes, vertices, or points
  • The connections between the objects are called edges, links, or lines
Six nodes arranged in a graph

Image credit: User:AzaToth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Network analysis methods

Network analysis tools allow researchers to apply calculations to networks, and to explore networks visually in order to detect patterns.

  • Calculating centrality
    • Which nodes are most connected, important, or influential
  • Clustering
    • Which groups of nodes are connected to one another?
  • Visualization
    • Producing graphs that visually express the relationships between the nodes
  • Exploration
    • Creating tools that allow others to explore a particular graph

Graphing scholarship

Citation network analysis uses network models to analyze scholarship. Nodes representing individual articles are connected by edges representing citations - articles are connected to one another via networks of citation. 

Animation showing three scholarly articles and the citation network between them