Infoscience

Journal article

The structural role of the core literature in history

The intellectual landscapes of the humanities are mostly uncharted territory. Little is known on the ways published research of humanist scholars defines areas of intellectual activity. An open question relates to the structural role of core literature: highly cited sources, naturally playing a disproportionate role in the definition of intellectual landscapes. We introduce four indicators in order to map the structural role played by core sources into connecting different areas of the intellectual landscape of citing publications (i.e. communities in the bibliographic coupling network). All indicators factor out the influence of degree distributions by internalizing a null configuration model. By considering several datasets focused on history, we show that two distinct structural actions are performed by the core literature: a global one, by connecting otherwise separated communities in the landscape, or a local one, by rising connectivity within communities. The global action is mainly performed by a small set of scholarly monographs, reference works or primary sources, while the rest of the core, and especially most journal articles, acts mostly locally.

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