“Starstruck by Journal Prestige and Citation Counts? On Student Bias and Perceptions of Reliability According to Clues in Publication References »

Research is becoming increasingly accessible to the public through open access publications, researcher social media posts, outreach and popular broadcasts. Healthy research discourse is characterized by debates, disagreements, and differing viewpoints. Therefore, readers can rely on available information, such as publication reference attributes and bibliometric markers, to resolve conflicts. Yet critical voices have cautioned against uncritical and one-sided use of this information to assess research. In this study, we wanted to gain insight into how individuals without research training trust research based on cues present in publication references. A questionnaire was designed to probe respondents’ perceptions of six publication attributes. A total of 148 students responded to the questionnaire, including 118 undergraduate students (with limited research experience and knowledge) and 27 graduate students (with some research knowledge and experience).

A divergent stacked bar chart showing the percentage distribution of respondents’ perceived confidence in six publication benchmark attributes on a 5-item Likert scale. Source: 10.1007/s11192-022-04521-4

The results showed that respondents were mainly influenced by the number of citations and the recency of the publication, while the author names, the type of publication and the origin of the publication were less influential. There were few differences between undergraduate and graduate students, except that undergraduate students favored multiple-author publications more strongly than single-author publications. We discuss possible implications for teachers who incorporate research articles into their curriculum.

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