A simple analysis of Reference lists of 10 PLOS ONE Paleontology papers

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Mounce, Ross (2013): A simple analysis of Reference lists of 10 PLOS ONE Paleontology papers. figshare.

Retrieved 05:41, Dec 01, 2015 (GMT)


I wanted to see what the mean & median age cited papers in paleontology reference lists were.

To this end in a simple 5 minute excercise I looked at 10 Open Access PLOS ONE paleontology papers all published in 2009 and parsed just the reference list in the main paper to see how old each of the referenced articles were.

method: cut n paste reference list into text file & apply sed -n -e '/^[^(]*(\([^)]*\)).*/s//\1/p'

(not quite perfect parsing but it'll do)

in press  references I manually converted to '2009'


In the PLOS ONE Paleontology papers I sampled, the mean-age of cited papers was >18 years from the publication date of the citing paper, whilst the median-age of cited papers are >10 years from the publication data of the citing paper.

It would be interesting to compare this data to data of other journals in other fields. 


Comments (1)

  • If you plot the median age of the articles cited by each article the plot looks like this:







    6  ###


    8  #

    9  #


    11 ##


    13 #





    22 #


    The mean is going to be horribly skewed by including old papers (there is a softish limit of 200-300 years for oldest paper, but a hard limit for the youngest). Obviously it's a small sample size, but a lot of cited papers are fairly recent. Given the nature of the data I think sumamry stats are going to be less enlightening than looking at distributions.

    15/01/2013    by R. Page

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