What makes “interesting” Business History? Evaluation of the most cited recent business history journal articles

23 08 2011

That’s the title of a paper that will be presented on Thursday at the European Business History Association conference in Athens.

The paper “discusses the impact and context of the most cited articles in two premier  journals in the field of business history in the 1990s (Business History Review, BHR  (USA) and Business History, BH (UK). Why do scholars refer to these articles? The obvious and most simple answer is that the most cited articles are interesting. But  what makes a business history article an interesting one? Is it the topic of the paper,  the findings, the method applied, the theoretical framework, the scholar him/herself  and his or her reputation, the high quality of the article in general, or perhaps the  controversial nature of the subject or the argumentative style the scholar has decided  to use?

In earlier research we found that the use of even simple quantitative tools increased the citation counts in BHR, with the more quantitatively sophisticated  articles receiving more citations, but not in BH. There were certain differences in the  subject matter between the two journals that might be linked to the divergence of  European and American academic discourses. Overall, the interdisciplinary appeal of  articles that used quantitative methods, when used in conjunction with theory, was  higher.

You can read the full paper here.

The basic lesson to be taken from this paper is that if a business historian wants his or her research to be read and cited by many people, a business historian needs to engage with theory and use plenty of quantitative data. It matters much less which country or time period you are studying.  To my mind, however, the really interesting thing is the difference between American and European academic culture identified by the authors.

One further thought– why wasn’t Enterprise and Society, the business history journal published by Oxford Journals, included in this analysis?  In 2010, the impact factor of the Business History Review (founded in 1926) was 0.648. The impact factor for Business History (founded 1958) was  0.427. Enterprise and Society‘s impact factor in 2010 was somewhat lower, at 0.306, but this journal is much younger, having been founded in 2000. Perhaps EandS should be included in future versions of this paper.

The authors are:  Heli Valtonen, University of Jyväskylä; Academy of Finland, Finland ; Jari Ojala, University of Jyväskylä, Finland; Jari Eloranta Appalachian State University, USA.

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