April 16, 2009

Keyword phrases

I've been thinking about all the things that might lead to an author becoming highly cited, or raising citations for a particular paper, in ways other than just WRAP deposit. I often feel pressured to prove that WRAP deposit can raise citations: it is one of the claims that we make, so we should be able to prove it. Yet it seems to me to be impossible to do: all I can do is point to articles which say that open access publishing raises citations, and say that WRAP deposit is a form of open access publishing. It stands to reason that if more people can find and read your article, then more people will cite it, in the long run. But authors seem to want better evidence than that, and they would prefer to have evidence that WRAP itself will raise their citations, not just about repositories generally.

So, I've been looking at what Google analytics can tell me (again!) and matching that to tactics that are rumoured to raise citations. One such tactic is to use a key phrase repeatedly in article titles, or to publish consistently on/around a particular theme, so that you get known as an expert for something in particular. I'm not sure whether anyone ever does this in such a calculated way, and it's probably more likely that a particular phrase is associated with an expert on account of the fact that it was his/her work which invented the concept. But anyway, GA can tell me which keywords have led people to WRAP.

This month, the highest keyword search leading to visits to WRAP is "interracial sex", and other keyword phrases that people are searching for when they come to WRAP are: "street slang", "leishmaniasis recombinant vaccines" and "educational leadership theories".  Other phrase searches include entire article titles.

What do such phrase searches tell me? Well, in the case of article titles, it is clear that it is the academics' work that is being sought. In the case of keyword phrases, it could be that "social searching" is leading visitors to WRAP as much or as well as academic searching, in some cases. Looking at the papers that these keywords led to, and at the "content overlay" feature of GA, which tells me where people clicked when they visited that page, I can't see that people are clicking on the pdf or the publisher's link. They appear to be looking at the WRAP record and then looking away again: this might mean that they read the abstract and learnt enough, or that they were indeed looking for something else entirely. The most popular papers in WRAP correspond with the keyword phrases that are leading most visitors to WRAP. I've looked in some detail at the profile of visitors to those popular papers, and from the network locations of the visitors, many are indeed on identifiably academic networks. Even those on commercial networks could be academics working from home.

In short, what I can say is that keyword phrases will bring visitors to your paper in WRAP - if your paper is there. At least some of those will be the kind of visitor that you will want to have. It really doesn't take that much effort to deposit: visit a web page, upload a file, tick a couple of boxes (literally 2!) and paste a reference in. Time will tell whether all that effort is worth it, because the business of becoming highly cited takes a very, very long time and a lot more than just repository deposit.

If I can possibly prove that WRAP deposit will raise citations, I will do. But in the meantime, there needs to be work in the repository for me to look at the statistics for... it's early days for WRAP still, and even for repositories.

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