Printer Friendly Email a Friend PDF RSS Feed

Dynamic Chiropractic – November 4, 1994, Vol. 12, Issue 23

Science -- What Is It?

Part II: Types of Scientific Literature and Bibliographic Analysis

By Andrei Pikalov and Vyatcheslav Kharin, MD, PhD
Editor's Note: Part I of this two-part article appeared in the October 7, 1994 issue of "DC."

The main problem with bibliographic analyses is adequate interpretation and a clear understanding of the connections between certain types of literature and quantitative indexes with corresponding processes and structural units of science.

Two levels of scientific literature can be delineated: periodical publications in journals, and books. Reviews and synopses fit in between these two levels. Journals are the most important means of communication between scientists. They provide the freshest information about achievements on the cutting edge of science. Publications state problems which are of interest to scientists and propose solutions to these same problems. This is reflected in the various names of articles and synopses. The references for journal articles reflect the cognitive base of the authors.

Reviews, as a genre of scientific literature, appear when there are few consumers of a particular scientific product. This process is accompanied by cognitive development of the direction for study. Reviews are a sign of development of a specific scientific direction. Reviews are necessary when the amount of study reaches "critical mass" and generalizations are required. In a certain way, reviews reflect predisciplinary knowledge. They basically contain descriptions of the results of investigations from the forefront of scientific research. "Round tables," notes, letters to the editor, and discussions should be added to reviews. They reflect the observations of scientific data by the public, and they provide the foundation on which a complete methodology can be built.

Monographs and books reflect systemized scientific directions. They keep well-accepted knowledge and characterize well-formed elements of scientific subjects. Literature designed for teaching purposes (textbooks, maps, atlases, etc.) directly reflects the knowledge about a particular subject. This type of literature is used both in the educational process and in determining the direction of scientific research.

Types of scientific literature and their connections with structures of science and with the stages of development of scientific directions are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

Regular observations concerning the state of scientific literature become possible after 1961 with the creation of the Science Citation Index (SCI) at the Institute of Scientific Information. This index provides for yearly publication of a citation directory including both an author index and a subject index. There are also extended issues -- "Current Contents" -- which reflect information about scientific periodicals. The information about consolidated scientific societies and reviews is presented in the Index to Scientific Review.

The founders of this information system took an article as a unit of information and a reference as a unit of connection between two documents. Many bibliographic indicators are created on the basis of analysis of periodic literature.

This system provides complete information about the problems at the forefront of scientific inquiry. However, each scientific problem is related to a social group of scientists who are creators and distributors of knowledge about their particular area of interest. The key to discovering real scientific societies is a citation system. There are rules for committing to paper the results of any study. The author must make references to previous studies in the same area or in related areas. Authors may use their own technology for investigation (cognitive means), and this is reflected in their references. If authors don't make reference to a method used or a theory proposed by another scientist, they are guilty of plagiarism in the eyes of the scientific community.

It is necessary to mention the term "cognitive basis" (CB) of a scientific society. This term has been accepted by Russian science and consists of three major elements: basic facts, methods, and theoretical apparatus. These three elements are cognitive means and they are described in references. Thus, the references could be considered as documental description of cognitive means which were used by the author. Scientists are united in the scientific community not only by the problem, but also by the principles of problem-solving. Groups of competing scientists may all focus on one problem area and differ only in the means used to obtain their results. Therefore, references may not reflect all the scientific groups considering a particular problem area -- whether they work in harmony or conflict. Having knowledge of scientific groups aids in determining the limits of any one scientific direction, as well as evaluating scientific potential.

Thus, data about citation allows us to describe the cognitive state of science. In contrast to American bibliographists, Russian scientists consider references as a description of the cognitive basis for contemporary investigations. Such consideration allows one to connect data about structure and quality of scientific literature with the structure and state of scientific investigations. The lack of theoretical grounding for connection between types of scientific literature, quantitative indexes of citation and scientific processes makes the interpretation incorrect.

Articles reflect the state of seeking investigations. The title of the article reflects the subject, and the aims and principles of problem solving. In other words, it describes the problem field in which the author (scientist) is working. Big collections of articles (e.g. from National Academy of Science) reflect problems on the forefront of science (this is a system of scientific knowledge that doesn't take into account the social structure of scientific communities). There are methods that, based on an analysis of the titles in periodical publications, evaluate the interest in certain scientific subjects. Counting key words related to certain scientific problems is another such method.

References reflect cognitive means of investigation. To determine the cognitive basis of science and smaller structure units (directions), it is necessary to select the most frequently referenced documents. Next, one must determine the connections between key works (when they are cited together in several documents). The frequency of co-citations shows the strength of connection between different works.

The Index to Scientific Review helps to determine problem fields which correspond with consolidated scientific societies. A special section of the ISR, Research Front Specialty Index, counts all areas of research on the basis of the frequency of key words. Some areas of research may not come up in this procedure and it could be a sign that the scientific society pursuing this direction is nonstructural or diffuse.

The method of analysis of reviews is similar to the one for articles. ISR has all the necessary information about reviews. Titles of reviews reflect more precisely than articles the problems to be studied. Moreover, analysis of reviews can show some scientific groups which have their own communication tools and which were not shown during the analysis of articles. The review is a direct sign of the life of a scientific problem. Comparison of the results from the analysis of articles and reviews shows precisely the research highlights in a scientific society.

Table I
Connection of types of scientific literature with structures of science.
Types of Literature Functional Structures of Science
Articles Leading edge of science, seeking
Letters, reviews Predisciplinary, methodological centers of knowledge systematization
Monographs Scientific schools, centers for methodology and planning for investigations
Textbooks Centers of reproduction, disciplinary structures of science

Table II
Connection of types of scientific literature with stages of development for scientific directions.
Type of Literature Stages of Developement for
Scientific Direction
Articles (1st time in print) Origin, formation of theme, statement of problem
Reports, notes Progressive growth
Reviews Stabilization and generalization of the material
Monographs Formation of complete theoretical basis, final definition of scientific direction and adding it to structure of scientific knowledge
Textbooks Formalization of direction, creation of disciplinary unit

Dr. Andrei Pikalov
Research Department
Cleveland Chiropractic College

Dr. Vyatcheslav Kharin
Medical Research Institute
Ministry of International Affairs
Moscow, Russia


To report inappropriate ads, click here.