Analytic Overview of Citation Metrics in the Civil Engineering Domain with Focus on Construction Engineering and Management Specialty Area and its Subdisciplines

Alternative Title

Analytic Overview of the Citation Metrics in the Civil Engineering Domain with Focus on the Construction Engineering and Management Specialty Area and its Sub-Disciplines


Several data-based metrics have been developed to evaluate the quality of research output, including h-index, impact factor, and others. Considerable debates have focused on whether the aforementioned metrics represent effective and efficient indications of research impact or just provide an imperfect reflection. Because the academic community is witnessing a growing trend where most of the tangible rewards are related to publications and their quality, there is a dire necessity to obtain a more realistic and holistic understanding of such evaluation indicators. As such, the goal of this paper is to investigate the parameters associated with the citation metrics used to assess the quality and impact of research publications in the broad civil engineering (CE) domain with a focus on the construction engineering and management (CEM) specialty area and its subdisciplines. To this end, the authors (1) analyzed the different CE research areas - including CEM - with respect to the number of publications, community size, and potential ties with other interdisciplinary fields; (2) studied the citation metrics of the most-cited as well as award-winning peer-reviewed publications in both CE and CEM while examining the effect of the availability of research funds as well as the nature of the research - quantitative or qualitative - on the average number of citations for most-cited publications across the different CE specialty areas; and (3) investigated the impact of multiple factors on the citation metrics. Based on a thorough survey and analysis of 67,800 journal publications, it was found that both number of publications and citation metrics for the CEM specialty area is significantly lower compared with other CE specialty areas. Along the same vein, the citations across the various CEM subdisciplines are all different, where labor and personnel (306 average citations per paper) and contracting (266 average citations per paper) are the most cited, but cost and schedule (47 average citations per paper) and legal and contractual (23 average citations per paper) are the least cited. Also, with the exception of aerospace engineering as well as engineering education and practices, CEM was the least funded, had the highest percentage of qualitative research, and the least average number of citations for funded/unfunded projects as well as qualitative/quantitative research. Further, it was revealed that award-winning papers - which supposedly represent the highest quality - are not highly cited and in fact have way below average citation numbers. Ultimately, it was found that several factors such as research community size, trendiness of research field, amount of research output, connection with other interdisciplinary fields, characteristics and attributes of coauthors, timing of checking an h-index, publication access type, and the criteria adopted by the various archiving databases collectively affect the citation metrics for papers and authors. As such, citation metrics like h-index should not be used solely to assess the quality and impact of an author but rather be utilized as a single piece of information within a more holistic and broader context. This study furnishes various parameters and considerations that should be normalized before attempting to compare citations of papers and/or authors across the CE domain.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Computational electromagnetics; Engineering education; Indexing (of information); Publishing, Construction engineering; Engineering domains; Evaluation indicators; Interdisciplinary fields; Journal publication; Qualitative research; Research communities; Survey and analysis, Quality control

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0733-9364; 1943-7862

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2019