Major trends in distance education research: a combination of bibliometric and thematic analyze

This study intends to explore the current trends in the field of distance education research catalogued in Web of Science (WoS) database during 1980-2016. Mainly bibliographic description and social network analysis was employed to investigate the structure and patterns of information exchanged within the field of distance education research and also to interpret the interrelationship between keywords indicated in these articles. A total of 500 most cited articles (out of 6,141 relevant to the topic) were reviewed to examine the impact of factors such as journal DOI and keywords on the number of citations that they received. We also identified major trends in distance education literature including variation across publication and citation year, top ranking of institutions and top ranking of published papers based on authors, subject area and co-authorship collaboration between countries. Our results show that the most cited articles are from two institutions of United States and United Kingdom and the most prolific years in terms of number of published articles and citations are 2013.We also found non-significant and very small correlation between the number of citation and DOI number of the journals. Our study serves as a resource for future studies by indicating how trends in distance education research have gradually developed over time and demonstrating the characteristics of the most cited articles in this literature.