The role of online videos in research communication: A content analysis of YouTube videos cited in academic publications



Although there is some evidence that online videos are increasingly used by academics for informal scholarly communication and teaching, the extent to which they are used in published academic research is unknown. This article explores the extent to which YouTube videos are cited in academic publications and whether there are significant broad disciplinary differences in this practice. To investigate, we extracted the URL citations to YouTube videos from academic publications indexed by Scopus. A total of 1,808 Scopus publications cited at least one YouTube video, and there was a steady upward growth in citing online videos within scholarly publications from 2006 to 2011, with YouTube citations being most common within arts and humanities (0.3%) and the social sciences (0.2%). A content analysis of 551 YouTube videos cited by research articles indicated that in science (78%) and in medicine and health sciences (77%), over three fourths of the cited videos had either direct scientific (e.g., laboratory experiments) or scientific-related contents (e.g., academic lectures or education) whereas in the arts and humanities, about 80% of the YouTube videos had art, culture, or history themes, and in the social sciences, about 63% of the videos were related to news, politics, advertisements, and documentaries. This shows both the disciplinary differences and the wide variety of innovative research communication uses found for videos within the different subject areas.