Web references and the future of citation?

Ever bookmarked a website, only to visit it again to find that it no longer exists? This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is starting to affect scholarly research.

According to a new case study, the number of web citations in research papers has increased from 41.6% of all citations in 1998, to 53.3% in 2002. But when these citations were recently checked, a substantial number – 32.1% – were found to be missing. The study measured the number of missing references of 5-10 year old research papers from prominent open access journals in library and information science. Some interesting facts from the study:

  • 32.1% of citations could no longer be found online
  • The percentage of missing web citations increases with the age of the publication

The full study can be read here.

What does this trend mean for scholarly research? Since citation of sources is critical to the integrity of research over time, and the concept of intellectual property, this trend indicates a pressing need to archive digital content for ongoing access. Most scholarly journals, the kind FSC students can access through our library databases page, already archive their content, making it available for scholars of the future.

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