Helpful Strategies for Increasing Citation Counts
Citations have become increasingly important in determining the level of influence achieved by an article, an individual scientist, a scholarly journal or a university’s faculty. Citation counts and averages cannot reflect all aspects of scientific influence, however, and as a means of measuring research influence and, by implication, scientific performance, they have met with considerable criticism. Yet given that citations are an obvious indication of a paper’s impact on other scholarship and are also simple to track in electronic publications via computer-based technology, it is unlikely that citation counts will soon be abandoned as a measure of an article’s overall influence. Scientists who wish to have a measurable influence on their scholarly community therefore need to be cited as frequently as possible.

Although there is no way to guarantee that an article will be well or highly cited, aiming for as wide an audience as possible can be a good strategy for maximising influence, so it is always wise to write in ways accessible to more general as well as more specialised readers and to use keywords effectively. Researching and writing on a topic or problem that is currently fashionable or under debate – the validity of citations as a measure of influence springs immediately to mind – can also result in a highly cited article, as can being particularly innovative or argumentative by examining and rejecting a long-held theory and/or developing a new one of your own. Remember that whether the scientist citing your paper uses it positively as support or negatively as contradiction in relation to his or her own work, there has nonetheless been (countable) influence, which is far better than silence. It is essential, however, if you intend to dive into a lively debate with the hope of earning citations that you maintain research excellence at all times: your research methods and conclusions may need to stand up to rigorous examination and harsh criticism.

Although influence can occur without deliberate efforts on the part of an author, most scientific writers are hoping to have a meaningful impact on their scholarly community, and this positive state of mind can be immensely helpful when it comes to influencing readers. If you wish to make a difference in your subject area; if you want to change the way your fellow scientists think, conduct research and write about it, you will need a good helping of passion, ambition, commitment and determination, as well as considerable confidence in yourself and your research methods and results. These personal traits will come across in your writing as surely as their opposites would, especially to readers trained to seek out strengths and weaknesses; accordingly, they will make your voice stronger and your article all the more citable to your colleagues.