Oermann et al. (2010) follow a previous paper Oermann et al. (2008) on the dissemination of research into clinical nursing journals – on which a commentary was published (Watson 2008) – with this paper on the dissemination, specifically, of nursing research studies into clinical nursing journals. They admit to a limitation in their study around the definition of terms; however, where the search for perfection often paralyses action, they have conducted a study using a limited number of well defined nursing research journals and then tracked the citation of papers through to clinical nursing journals, including JCN.
A premise of Oermann et al. (2010) is that clinical nursing journals publish useful information in a way that is more accessible. All this is against a background of low (zero in some studies) readership of nursing research journals by clinicians but better reported readership of clinical nursing journals. At JCN we have little evidence to support any claims regarding clinical readership but it is certainly our intention and our hope that JCN straddles the apparent divide between academic credibility and clinical readability.
Citation studies are of abiding interest to editors and publishers and of increasing interest to individual researchers. Editors and publishers partly rate the success of their journals using citation analysis – specifically the impact factor (Jackson et al. 2009) which rates citations over a limited period. However, individual researchers’ interest is more focused on citations these days because of the influence of the h-index – a measure of citations to one’s own work – on promotions (Thompson & Watson 2009). Moreover, in the UK, with the advent of a new style of research assessment called the Research Excellence Framework, there is the possibility that citations may, for the first time, play a part in rating the quality of research; but not without some concern being expressed (Nolan et al. 2008).
Therefore, Oermann et al.'s (2010) paper is interesting and useful for two reasons: first the ability to trace nursing research papers into clinical nursing journals by means of citations and what this can tell us about the potential for clinical nurses to read about original research and use it to guide practice. Second, the study of citation patterns is, in itself, interesting and useful. The range of citations in this study is large (3–80); the years to first citation less so (0–6) and the citations per year range from 0·2–5·3; some work has not been cited, under the terms of this study, for 18 years. Admittedly, as Oermann et al. (2010) point out, there is little with which to compare these findings. Nevertheless, this is a good starting point, providing some norms in our field. There is also little to explain what influences citation patterns and this is something that is surely worth investigating.