A network of sociology
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A network of sociology

Neal Caren
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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What books or journal articles are relevant to sociology today? What books or articles are frequently discussed together? This graph displays works that sociologists have cited over the last five years. While the data comes from contemporary articles, the cited works could be from any year. Using data from 5,471 articles published between 2008 and 2012 in 38 sociological journals, I analyzed what works were cited and what works were often cited together. Details below the graph. [Note: Update June 5, 2012 to add ASQ and Social Networks, remove articles with fewer than 10 cites (which are probably not articles), and eliminate some duplicate articles. Unfortunately this process also shifted the color of the clusters.] [Note: Updated June 12, switch to a slightly a different journal list. The lists includes more US sociological journals and excludes sociological journals that do not have a strong US presence, as measured by Editorial Board. US and non-US sociology seemed only loosely correlated, so aggregating them together was likely making the picture cloudier.]


For an explanation of an earlier version of this graph, see my website.

Source: Data are drawn from citations appearing in 5,971 articles published between 2008 and 2012 in 45 US sociology journals. Articles data is from the Web of Science. The journals (followed by the number of articles in the data set) are: American Journal of Sociology (166); American Sociological Review (183); Annual Review of Sociology (102); City & Community (77); Criminology (156); Demography (245); Deviant Behavior (147); Ethnography (91); Feminist Criminology (65); Gender & Society (147); Homicide Studies (92); Journal For the Scientific Study of Religion (204); Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (111); Journal of Health and Social Behavior (141); Journal of Marriage and Family (375); Journal of Mathematical Sociology (50); Mobilization (101); Poetics (114); Population Research and Policy Review (177); Qualitative Sociology (106); Review of Religious Research (122); Rural Sociology (96); Social Forces (274); Social Networks (142); Social Politics (77); Social Problems (127); Social Psychology Quarterly (74); Social Science Research (396); Socio-economic Review (99); Sociological Forum (159); Sociological Inquiry (111); Sociological Methodology (43); Sociological Methods & Research (87); Sociological Perspectives (124); Sociological Quarterly (130); Sociological Research Online (209); Sociological Spectrum (131); Sociological Theory (73); Sociology of Education (76); Sociology of Religion (79); Studies in Symbolic Interaction (91); Symbolic Interaction (95); Teaching Sociology (127); Theory and Society (114); and Work and Occupations (65) Feel free to lobby me for the inclusion of a different journal or the exclusion of a certain journal. Updating the graph to include a new journal just takes a minute.

Nodes: Each circle is an article or book that was among the 500 most cited articles in US sociology over the last five years. The minimum for inclusion was 23 citations. The size of the circle is based on how many times that works was cited. Works that are probably books have a black circle around them. If you hover over a circle, you can find the author, publication year, book or journal title and the number of times it has been cited.

Here's my list of the 102 most cited works in sociology during this period based on related data.

The abbreviations are courtesy of Web of Science. Unfortunately, they don't provide article titles and often abbreviate books in different ways, so there is some measurement error in the data.

Edges: Works that are cited in the same article are considered connected. Edge width is based on frequency of being cited together.

Clusters: Works that are frequently cited together have the same color. This is accomplished by using the Louvain method for community detection. While this display includes only the most cited articles, the clustering was done on a larger universe of cited works, including all items that had been cited at least five times, which is a population of 8,706 works. When colors are rare, that usually means that most of the work in that area is not in the top 500.
Most of the clusters are relatively easy to identify as recognizable sociological fields, such as the social movements cluster or the theory cluster. All works are assigned a cluster, even if they don't evenly fit into one based on citation co-occurrences, like Annette Lareau's Unequal Childhoods, which acts as a broker between the gender, theory and family clusters.

Layout: Node placement is based on a force-directed algorithm. The layout starts random, and then nodes that are cited together drift closer to each other. It looks different each time depending on the starting conditions. You can push nodes around by dragging them. If the node was closely connected to its old location, it will spring back. Otherwise, it will settle in a new location. This dynamic process allows us to distinguish relatively random placement from relatively scientific placement.

This is all done in Python. Code will be published as soon as I clean it up. Data is exported using Drew Conway's NetworkX fork, and displayed using Mike Bostock's d3.js forced layout. If anyone is handy with JavaScript and wants to make this look better, please send me a note.

If you want to play with the data yourself, here are the edge and node list.