Normative Publication Productivity of Communication Scholars at Selected Career Milestones


Timothy Stephen; e-mail:


This study builds on past research on normative publication practices in the communication discipline by exploring rates of contribution to the discipline’s literature as represented in the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship’s ComAbstracts database. The ComAbstracts database, spanning 90 years and more than 46,000 publications, provides significantly greater breadth and depth than previously available data sources. The strategy for sampling scholars included in this study also differs from prior work by limiting the sample to scholars affiliated with the communication field through membership in one of its primary professional societies. For purposes of studying historical change in productivity, the sample of scholars was divided into six cohorts at different points in their careers to discover norms for publication productivity at milestone intervals following career onset, defined as the date of award of the Ph.D. or an equivalent terminal degree. Among other findings, results suggest (a) that rates of contribution of single-authored articles have fallen significantly over the years without compensating increases in the number of multiauthored publications, (b) that an early high rate of publication productivity is highly predictive of a sustained high rate, and (c) that more than one third of the membership of the scholars sample had not contributed any articles to the field’s mainline periodical literature. As well, a metric for determining exceptionally high and low productivity rates by career stage is suggested and illustrated, revealing a way of identifying top-tier and subnormal productivity adjusted for years in career.