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The citation life cycle of articles published in 13 American Psychological Association journals: A 25-year longitudinal analysis



The annual citation counts of 1,172 articles published in 1985 by 13 American Psychological Association journals were analyzed over a 25-year period. Despite a 61% reduction in citation counts from the peak year (1989: Year 4) to the final year (2010: Year 25), many of these articles were still being cited 25 years after they had been published. When the sample was divided into four categories of impact using the total citation counts for each article—low impact (0–24 citations), moderate impact (25–99 citations), high impact (100–249 citations), and very high impact (250–1763 citations)—the yearly citation counts of low to high-impact articles peaked earlier and displayed a steeper decline than the yearly citation counts of very high-impact articles. Using 5 or more citations a years, 10 or more citations a year, and 20 or more citations a year as markers of moderate-impact, high-impact, and very high-impact articles, respectively, and using the most cited articles in a journal during the first 5 years of the follow-up period as indicators of high impact and very high impact showed promise of predicting impact over the entire 25-year period.