The invariant distribution of references in scientific articles

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The organization of scientific papers typically follows a standardized pattern, the well­‐known IMRaD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion). Using the full‐text of 45,000 papers published in the PLOS series of journals as a case study, this paper investigates, from the viewpoint of bibliometrics, how references are distributed along the structure of scientific papers, as well as the age of these cited references. It shows that, once the sections of articles are realigned to follow the IMRaD sequence, the position of cited references along the text of articles is invariant across al PLOS journals, with the introduction and conclusion accounting for most of the references. It also provides evidence that the age of cited references varies quite a lot by section, with older references being found in the methods and more recent ones in the discussion. On the whole, these results provide insights into the different roles citations have in the scholarly communication process.

This content has been updated on June 2nd, 2017 at 14 h 22 min.