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J Med Libr Assoc. 2008 Oct;96(4):362-9. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.96.4.012.

Citation patterns of online and print journals in the digital age.

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  • 1Assistant Professor and Assistant Health Sciences Librarian, Library of the Health Sciences (Peoria), University of Illinois at Chicago, P.O. Box 1649, One Illini Drive, Peoria, IL 61656, USA.



The research assesses the impact of online journals on citation patterns by examining whether researchers were more likely to limit the resources they cited to those journals available online rather than those only in print.


Publications from a large urban university with a medical college at an urban location and at a smaller regional location were examined. The number of online journals available to authors on either campus was the same. The number of print journals available on the large campus was much greater than the print journals available at the small campus.


Searches by author affiliation from 1996 to 2005 were performed in the Web of Science to find all articles written by affiliated members in the college of medicine at the selected institution. Cited references from randomly selected articles were recorded, and the cited journals were coded into five categories based on their availability at the study institution: print only, print and online, online only, not owned, and dropped. Results were analyzed using SPSS. The age of articles cited for selected years as well as for 2006 and 2007 was also examined.


The number of journals cited each year continued to increase. On the large urban campus, researchers were not more likely to cite journals available online or less likely to cite journals only in print. At the regional location, at which the number of print-only journals was minimal, use of print-only journals significantly decreased.


The citation of print-only journals by researchers with access to a library with a large print and electronic collection appeared to continue, despite the availability of potential alternatives in the online collection. Journals available in electronic format were cited more frequently in publications from the campus whose library had a small print collection, and the citation of journals available in both print and electronic formats generally increased over the years studied.

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