A bibliometric review of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, 1976–2010

Nursing forms an integral part of multidisciplinary teams within the healthcare systems worldwide. The first issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing (JAN) appeared in 1976 and was one of the first nursing journals to be indexed in the Web of Science (WoS) in 1978. According to the founding editor, Smith (2006), JAN would be published in six issues (one volume a year) and each issue would contain approximately six 3000-words papers, together with editorial and sections for news and book reviews. As the years progressed, the number of papers published each year increased and in 1989, it was decided that the journal should become a monthly publication containing ten papers per issue. Since then, the size of the journal has expanded to accommodate the number of papers accepted for publication and in 1993, it became necessary to produce the journal in two volumes. In December 1999, Jane Robinson became editor-in-chief and since 2004, Alison Tierney has held this position. Many changes have taken place over the last two decades that have improved the quality, relevance, and impact of JAN including electronic submissions, quicker reviews, and decisions (Tierney 2006, 2011b). JAN now has subscribers in every region of the world (Tierney 2004) and is the largest international nursing journal based on readership. Nursing has really come of age! But what is the role of JAN?

In this article, we look back at some of the achievements of the JAN and the key papers in the last 35-year history based on a citation analysis. In a previous editorial, Tierney (2011a) mentioned that they extracted data from WoS to identify the top 100 papers published in JAN since the year 2000. She noted that this list contained five papers that have accumulated over 100 citations each; the top one by Hasson et al. (2000) was a methodological paper on the Delphi technique. Thirty papers were cited over 50 times. It has previously been suggested that a paper receiving ten citations in a nursing journal is a ‘good’ paper, 50 citations means it is a ‘very good’ paper, and 100 or more citations for a single article means it is an ‘excellent’ paper (Hack et al. 2010). In this editorial, we wanted to make a more comprehensive examination of highly cited papers appearing in JAN and identify the top ten articles receiving the most citations.

We used two databases (Web of Science-WoS and MEDLINE) to examine the journal’s performance according to various bibliometric indicators from December 2011. The findings suggest that JAN has grown substantially over the last three and a half decades based on the increased number of citations it has attracted. Figure 1 shows the number of citations to all articles in 5-year periods and shows the exponential growth of citations received.

Figure 1.

 Number of citations listed in the Web of Science (WoS) for each 5-year period for all articles appearing in the Journal of Advanced Nursing from 1980 to 2009 (as of 6 Dec 2011). Note that some of the growth can be attributed to the expansion of the WoS database itself (new journals added to the database over time).

To gain a better picture of a journal’s performance, it is necessary to obtain more comprehensive data than just citation number. Table 1 lists the number of articles published in JAN over three decades (1980–2009), the number of citations these have received, and average citations per item according to the WoS database. The next column lists the articles that have received the most citations for each decade (Goodman 1987, Williams & Webb 1994, Hasson et al. 2000). The last two columns show the number of articles that have received at least 100 citations and 50 citations up to December 2011. The number of articles published in JAN significantly increased from the 1980s to the 1990s. It is hard to pinpoint precisely the reasons for the increasing number of articles published in JAN. The immediate underlying reason is the increased number of papers accepted, which is predicated on the number of manuscripts being submitted. One of the drivers for the increase in submissions to JAN– which applies to other nursing journals and journals in other fields – is the periodic assessment of research quality by the UK government funding bodies for higher education. Prior to all of these exercises, there is a noticeable increase in submissions; this happens each exercise and does not subside.

Table 1.   Bibliometric data from MEDLINE and Web of Science of articles published in JAN, 1980–2009 (as of 8 December 2011).
YearsNumber of articles Medline (Ovid)Citable items*Total number of citationsAverage citations per itemArticle with highest no. of citationsNumber of articles receiving ≥100 citationsNumber of articles receiving ≥50 citations (% of citable items)
  1. *Citable items included articles, reviews, editorials, and proceeding papers.

  2. Goodman 1987.

  3. Williams & Webb 1994, see Table 2 for title of article.

  4. §Hasson et al. 2000, see Table 2 for title of article.

1980–198978884177859·26139220 (2·4)
1990–19992857282442,65615·101521798 (3·5)
2000–20093072296835,46011·95265§1172 (2·4)
Total6717663385,90111·9430190 (2·9)

In a previous editorial, we compared citation outputs of the top 12 ranked nursing journals (Hunt & Cleary 2011) and from this analysis, we showed that JAN published the most articles between 1995 and 2009 (4328, twice as many as its nearest competitor) and that 65 (1·5%) of these articles were cited at least 50 times. Four other nursing journals had higher percentages of articles with 50 or more citations (range 3·9–2·1%), but they published fewer articles (482–861) over the same period. It also should be noted that articles published in the previous decade (2000–2009) have not reached their full citation potential because it normally takes 10–15 years for this to happen (Tsay 1999). Thus, the number of articles shown in Table 1 for 2000–2009 that have already obtained 30 or 50 citations will probably increase over the next decade, as will the average number of citations per item.

Table 2 lists the top ten articles from the JAN that have received the most citations to date, according to the WoS (December 2011). Six of these articles were published in the last decade, even though they had less time to accrue citations than those four published in the 1990s. Interestingly, three of the top ten articles were about the Delphi technique and others were mostly reviews focusing on evidence-based practice and qualitative studies.

Table 2.   Top ten articles in JAN receiving the most citations.
RankCitationsAuthors (year)Title of article
  1. Source: Web of Science, December 8, 2011.

 1267Hasson et al. (2000)Research guidelines for the Delphi survey technique
 2166Dodd et al. (2001)Advancing the science of symptom management
 3166McCormack et al. (2002)Getting evidence into practice: the meaning of ‘context’
 4158Rycroft-Malone et al. (2004)What counts as evidence in evidence-based practice
 5152Williams and Webb (1994)The Delphi technique – a methodological discussion
 6148Gibson (1991)A concept analysis of empowerment
 7148Powell (2003)The Delphi technique: myths and realities
 8145McVicar (2003)Workplace stress in nursing: a literature review
 9144Sim (1998)Collecting and analysing qualitative data: issues by the focus group
10141Wilkinson (1991)Factors which influence how nurses communicate with cancer patients

Table 3 provides an annual citation analysis of the JAN 2000–2010 and the journal impact factor (JIF) received from Journal Citation Reports (JCR, Thompson Reuters). Over the last 10 years, the JIF for JAN has increased from 0·769 in 2000 to 1·540 in 2010. The number of citable items published per year, if anything, has decreased slightly. The average number of citations decreases from 2001 to 2010, and this is likely because many of the articles published in the last 9 years have not reached their full citation potential. Table 3 shows that citations continue long after the 2-year window used to derive a journal’s impact factor, and does not take into consideration the impact of seminal articles that can only be identified in hindsight through a citation analysis. For example, the most cited article in 2009 that has received 15 citations is unlikely to be the most cited article 10 years from now, but these 15 citations are important to Editors as they contribute to the JIF.

Table 3.   Journal impact factors and citation analysis of articles appearing in JAN 2000–10.
Authors of article with highest number of citations (year)JIF (Journal Citation Reports)Citable items* (WoS)Total number of citations to 2011Average citations per itemArticle with highest number of citations
  1. Source: WoS and JCR, December 8, 2011.

  2. *Citable items include original articles, reviews, and proceeding papers.

Hasson et al. (2000)0·769343619818·07267
Dodd et al. (2001)0·797355639618·02166
McCormack et al. (2002)0·805255414316·25166
Powell (2003)0·998239398616·68148
Rycroft-Malone et al. (2004)0·917259399615·43158
Galdas et al. (2005)0·912261344713·21131
Pancorbo-Hidalgo et al. (2006)1·342264297211·2676
Tourangeau et al. (2007)1·44225419987·8758
Elo and Kyngas (2008)1·65426014015·3983
Saranto and Kinnunen (2009)1·5182516592·6315
Cant and Cooper (2010)1·5402602220·859

Judging an article by its citation count is not the ‘be all and end all’. In a previous editorial-on the top ten papers published yearly (2001–2007) in the Australian & New Journal of Psychiatry as judged by a selection panel, 35% received fewer than ten citations (Hunt et al. 2011). The reasons they did not accrue high numbers of citations do not detract from their importance as they may be used in teaching, training or in advancing work practices. In the 30th anniversary issue of JAN, the editors selected 12 articles from 1976 to 2005 that in their view had the largest impact on nursing practice. They invited commentators to reflect on the significance of each of the papers at the time of publication and on its current relevance for nursing knowledge and practice. Eleven of these articles are listed on WoS, but only one article was cited 100 times or more (Koch 1994), three were cited thirty or more times, five more than ten times, and two articles were cited fewer than ten times. This adds further to the argument that important articles often do not get as many citations as they deserve.

Some of the increase in citation rates over the last decade is most likely due to the recent growth of nursing journals indexed in WoS. For example, in 2005, only 33 nursing journals (out of possible 548) had an impact factor from JCR (Johnstone 2007). The number of nursing journals given a JIF from ISI has steadily increased each year from 36 journals in 2006 to 89 in 2010 (Journal Citation Reports). However, the median impact factor of these nursing journals (0·936 in 2008) is much lower as a group compared with other medical and allied health speciality journals (e.g. median impact of psychiatry journals was 2·3) and none has an impact factor of 3 or more, which is atypical of journal sets outside of nursing (Hunt & Cleary 2011).

Returning to the original question, what is the role of JAN? Jane Robinson (2006) summarized the role of JAN in her 30th anniversary editorial that the scope and strength of JAN were in its ‘diverse and eclectic content as an opportunity for advancing nursing in the global environment’ (p. 5). In May 2001, the Aims and scope for JAN were changed to reflect an emphasis on inclusiveness and diversity amongst nurses and midwives around the world. The new wording referred to the editorial team not seeking ‘to impose one model for practice’. The revised Aims and Scope also stated that nursing is what different nurses do at different times and in different places. It is advanced nursing when nurses question their practice within its specific cultural, political, economic, social and technological context, asking whether their practice is effective, efficient and compassionate as possible (Robinson 2006, p. 5). In her farewell editorial, Alison Tierney (2011b) mentioned that the impact factor of JAN is important, but strongly objects to any attempts at artificial inflation. She also reiterated that it is important that JAN authors work hard to maximize the impact of their papers and to improve effectiveness of nursing practice and standards of education and management. There are a variety of methods to accomplish this, such as, through the media outreach scheme and Open Access publishing. The newly appointed editor-in-chief fully supports these sentiments and recognizes the many achievements of past editors-in-chief in making JAN the journal it is today and will do his utmost to continue this good work.