Determinants of Citation in Epidemiological Studies on Phthalates: A Citation Analysis

Miriam J. E. Urlings*, Bram Duyx, Gerard M. H. Swaen, Lex M. Bouter, Maurice P. A. Zeegers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


Citing of previous publications is an important factor in knowledge development. Because of the great amount of publications available, only a selection of studies gets cited, for varying reasons. If the selection of citations is associated with study outcome this is called citation bias. We will study determinants of citation in a broader sense, including e.g. study design, journal impact factor or the funding source of the publication. As a case study we assess which factors drive citation in the human literature on phthalates, specifically the metabolite mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP). A systematic literature search identified all relevant publications on human health effect of MEHP. Data on potential determinants of citation were extracted in duplo. Specialized software was used to create a citation network, including all potential citation pathways. Random effect logistic regression was used to assess whether these determinants influence the likelihood of citation. 112 Publications on MEHP were identified, with 5684 potential citation pathways of which 551 were actual citations. Reporting of a harmful point estimate, journal impact factor, authority of the author, a male corresponding author, research performed in North America and self-citation were positively associated with the likelihood of being cited. In the literature on MEHP, citation is mostly driven by a number of factors that are not related to study outcome. Although the identified determinants do not necessarily give strong indications of bias, it shows selective use of published literature for a variety of reasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3053-3067
Number of pages15
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number6
Early online date13 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Citation bias
  • Network analysis
  • Questionable research practice
  • Phthalates
  • MEHP
  • BIAS

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