Citation Analysis of the ACR Proceedings: a Knowledge Development and Social Exchange Perspective

ABSTRACT - One way to assess the scientific status of a publication is to conduct a citation analysis. Such an analysis provides insights about the knowledge flows concerning ideas written in a publication. Here we study the conference proceedings which accompanies the annual Association for Consumer Research (ACR) Conference. We find that proceedings authors draw on a very diverse literature for inspiration. In turn. the proceedings has had an increasing impact on published work in related scientific disciplines.


George M. Zinkhan, Mary J. Saxton, Martin Roth, and Gerald Zaltman (1990) ,"Citation Analysis of the ACR Proceedings: a Knowledge Development and Social Exchange Perspective", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17, eds. Marvin E. Goldberg, Gerald Gorn, and Richard W. Pollay, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 627-635.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17, 1990      Pages 627-635


George M. Zinkhan, University of Houston

Mary J. Saxton, University of Houston

Martin Roth, Boston College

Gerald Zaltman, University of Pittsburgh


One way to assess the scientific status of a publication is to conduct a citation analysis. Such an analysis provides insights about the knowledge flows concerning ideas written in a publication. Here we study the conference proceedings which accompanies the annual Association for Consumer Research (ACR) Conference. We find that proceedings authors draw on a very diverse literature for inspiration. In turn. the proceedings has had an increasing impact on published work in related scientific disciplines.


Scientific disciplines rely on both formal and informal mechanisms to foster the development, dissemination and application of knowledge. The scientific journal perhaps best embodies the formal system serving rigorous quality control and archival functions among many others. Colloquia and certain aspects of professional association meetings are examples of informal mechanisms where ideas are usually exchanged relatively early in their development and through direct face-to-face interactions.

The professional conference also has certain qualities that combine both formal and informal mechanisms. For example, a published conference proceedings, such as those of the Association for Consumer Research, involves peer review and thus some level of certification for the ideas they contain. Proceedings also provide archival functions and provide a basis for establishing intellectual ownership or recognition for contributions made. At the same time it is recognized that many of these ideas are in their early stages of development and are sometimes offered in a more informal or tentative (brainstorming) spirit than when the same basic idea may be later offered in a core scientific journal. In many disciplines, publication in a proceedings is considered sufficiently informal that it does not preclude later publication of the same idea (with suitable improvements, of course) in a formal journal. Thus the published conference proceedings represents an interesting vehicle to study if one is interested in the development of knowledge in a particular discipline.

The key objective of this paper is to make a partial assessment of the role of the ACR Proceedings in knowledge development in the field of consumer research. That is, what are the sources of the ideas which are presented in ACRP? And, perhaps more importantly, what sorts of future work does the ACRP influence and/or inspire? Do cognate areas (such as psychology, sociology) '*recognize' ACRP by citing it (thereby conferring status), and to what degree do ACR researchers recognize other disciplines by citing their works? A social exchange framework is used to identify and explore the nature of knowledge flows between ACR and other disciplines. The principal methodology is a citation analysis of the ACR proceedings (ACRP) to determine: a) what literature the ACRP cites; and b) conversely, what literature cites the ACRP. This effort is particularly appropriate as the ACR conference celebrate its twentieth anniversary (and the Journal of Consumer Research its fifteenth year of publication).


It is possible to conceive of the citation process as a social exchange where, over an extended period of time, published authors exchange ideas (manuscripts, which include citations of others' work) for future recognition (partly in terms of reciprocal citations). In this context, we are viewing citations as frozen footprints which bear witness to the transfer of an idea (Cronin 1984). That is, the author who includes a citation to a previous work is acknowledging receipt of that idea and is conferring recognition of its importance upon the cited author.

Previous citation analyses which have been conducted in the consumer behavior literature have concentrated upon the sources of ideas (see, for example, Leong 1989). Our approach is different in that we also investigate the literature which has been influenced and/or inspired by the proceedings. This is of potentially greater interest from a knowledge development perspective. In fact, Price (1986) advocates thinking of the role of citations from a cumulative advantage perspective. He suggests viewing old papers as the citation base from which new literature grows, rather than conceptualizing new papers as simply referring back to the old. Such a view better accounts for the ways extant knowledge is used in subsequent knowledge developments.

Our identification of the literature which is eventually influenced by the ACRP provides one way to judge the efficacy and efficiency of the conference as an informal exchange network. Thus, by examining citing and cited patterns of proceedings articles, it is possible to gain some insight into the nature of the relationships between consumer research and other related areas, thereby tracking knowledge exchanges across the traditional boundaries among the social sciences (Garfield 1979).




Citing and cited data were collected from the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) database for the four years 1984-1987. SSCI first began tracking ACRP in 1984. Citing in this case refers to journals which ACRP authors have referenced, and cited refers to the journals whose authors have referenced ACRP articles. The 1987 Citing Journal Listing includes entries for most of the more than 1,400 journals fully covered by the SSCI, provided that issues of the journal did appear during that year. While a few journal references contain citations to many kinds of items besides journals, for our analysis we included only citations to journal articles themselves and citations referring to the popular press (e.g, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek). Throughout we are interested in making comparisons to Leong's findings for the Journal of Consumer Research (JCR).


Each year SSCI calculates an impact factor for each journal, which is a measure of the frequency with which the "average" article in a journal has been cited in a particular year. It is a ratio between citations and published citable items corrected for frequency of publication, age of journals, and size of journals. In a sense, the impact factor is an indicator of the relative importance of a journal to researchers working in that field (Lutz 1989).

ACRP's status has been slightly growing over the years, as indicated by its increasing impact factor: 0.352 in 1984, 0.301 in 1985, 0.414 in 1986, and 0.449 in 1987. In comparison, JCR's ranking based on the impact factor has been relatively high and improving over the years (Leong 1989). For example, JCR's 1987 impact factor was 2.167, ranking it 39th among all social science journals.

Citing Patterns

Table 1 shows the cross-disciplinary references by ACRP researchers. As might be expected, the most influential areas are: marketing (13.7%), psychology (13.3%), and consumer research (8.3%). There is a substantial drop in influence when moving to the next most important areas: communication and journalism (1.3%), business-general (1.2%) and sociology (1.1%). After sociology there is a sharp drop to the seventh area, popular press, which accounts for only .5 percent of the references over the four-year period. This order varies somewhat from what Leong (1989) found in his study of 5 volumes of JCR where the most cited area was psychology (26.8%), followed by marketing (20.4%), consumer research (18.0%), then economics (5.6%), mathematics and statistics (4.2%), sociology (4.1%), and communication and journalism (3.8%). JCR tended to cite psychology more frequently than marketing while ACRP cites marketing more frequently. For JCR the first three areas account for over 65 percent of the total references, while for ACRP they account for only a little over 35 percent. Also, while JCR draws from economics, mathematics and statistics, and sociology as secondary intellectual hinterlands of consumer research (4 to 6 percent of citations, Leong 1989), ACRP draws less strongly from these quantitative sources (.3% economics and 1.1% sociology, no mathematics and statistics).

Several trends are suggested by Table 1. We find that references to the marketing literature are decreasing over the four-year period, from 15.1 percent to 12.1 percent, while references to consumer research are slightly increasing, 7.6 percent to 9.3 percent. Leong (1989) also found a tendency toward greater reliance on consumer behavior sources for referencing, indicating an increasing self-sufficiency of consumer researchers. As an informal test of whether consumer researchers are more likely to cite their own core discipline and less likely to cite literature from related fields over the four-year period, we selected four core disciplines most often cited by ACRP authors (marketing, psychology, communication and journalism, and business-general) and compared the percent of references accounted for by these journals versus the percent of consumer behavior references over time. In 1984 this ratio was 0.22 while in 1987 it is 0.43, suggesting that ACR authors are more likely to cite consumer behavior literature and less likely to cite literature from four related areas in 1987 than in 1984.

ACRP authors tend to rely more heavily on psychology and business journals than economic and quantitatively oriented academic journals, as evidenced by the small number of citations for these journals (see Table 2). Psychometrika is cited 42 times in four years, with .4% of total cites; Econometrica is cited 9 times (.1%), and Management Science 29 times (.2%). Also, ACRP tends to draw more heavily from the popular press (59 cites), especially such business-oriented media as Newsweek (12 cites), The Wall Street Journal (6 cites), and US News & World Report (6 cites).

We find that ACRP, JCR (as reported in Leong 1989, Table 3), and JMR and JM (Goldman 1979, Table 4) rely on very similar literatures. However, some differences in journal citations do exist. First, ACRP and JCR tend to cite JMR and JM less than the marketing journals tend to cite themselves (see Table 2). Second, in concurrence with Leong's JCR findings, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Psychological Bulletin receive relatively greater attention in ACRP (3.4% and 1.0%, respectively) than they do in JMR and JM, combined (1.7% and 1.0%), but not as much as in JCR (5.9% and 2.2%). In contrast, the Journal of Business, Psychometrika, Journal of Applied Psychology, Management Science, and Journal of the American Statistical Association all receive higher proportions of references in the marketing journals than in JCR and ACRP.

Cited Patterns

Table 3 reveals a slightly different pattern for cited data than shown in the citing data of Table 1. As might be expected, consumer behavior is the literature most likely to site ACRP (22.4%), while consumer research is only third in importance in the citing chart. The marketing literature is second most likely to cite ACRP (18.6%) during the four-year period; and consumer behavior and marketing together account for over 41% of all ACRP citations. Over time, the absolute number of ACRP self-citations has decreased (see Table 4, from 258 self-citations in 1984 to 200 in 1985, 205 in 1986, to 158 in 1987). This may be attributed to a general decline in the citing of books and proceedings (Leong 1989). Goldman (1979) found that in the marketing literature journals accounted for the bulk of reference sources, albeit marketing authors relied more on unpublished material than on conference proceedings. However, Leong (1989) found that in comparison to references cited from nonconsumer behavior sources, those from consumer research contain a much higher proportion of citations from conference proceedings than from books and academic journals. Thus, ACRP's incidence of self-citation is relatively small (7.0 percent) compared to authors of JMR (26.1 percent) and JM (28 percent) (Goldman 1979, p. 489).

As shown in Table 3 the psychology literature is the third most likely to cite ACRP (5.5%), while it ranked second in terms of being cited by ACRP. The fourth most likely is business-general (1.3%), which was the fifth most cited. Overall, in contrast to Leong's findings for JCR, the business literature is found to be moderately influenced by ACRP authors. There is a rather sharp fall off after this point, as no other discipline accounts for more than 1% of the cites to ACRP. It is interesting to note that while communication and journalism was the fourth area most cited, it slips to the sixth citing area with less than 1% total references.

While the proportion of citations to JCR has varied without a noticeable trend for the four years, it still remains ACRP's most cited journal (see Table 2). Furthermore, the proportion of citations in economic journals (Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review) is relatively small and concurs with Leong's (1989) finding that economic journals have paid less attention to consumer research over time.



Citing and Cited Patterns

When comparing citing and cited patterns for ACRP (see Table 5), it is obvious that ACRP draws more from the other disciplines (citings) than it repays (citeds). In only two areas, accounting and public relations, is ACRP cited more frequently than it cites.

More specifically, when comparing the ACRP citing and cited patterns by journals, it appears that there are some imbalances. While ACRP is heavily cited by Journal of Economic Psychology, it rarely cites JEP (ratio of ACRP citing/cited = 6.83, see Table 6). Also, the Annual Review of Psychology and the Journal of Advertising are more often citing ACRP than cited by ACRP (ratios of 1.58 and 1.54, respectively). However, it is interesting to note that 92% of the Annual Review of Psychology citations are due to the publication of one article written by a consumer behavior researcher (e.g., Bettman). This argues for an examination of person-to-person communication flows rather than a focus on journal-to-journal exchanges.

The Journal of Business Research cites equally as often as it is cited (ratio of 1.0). With regard to European journals, ACRP is more often cited than-citing. According to Table 4 the European Journal of Marketing is the tenth most likely journal to cite ACRP (27 cites, 1.4% of total cites) and the Revue Francaise du Marketing is the twenty-second most likely (4 cites, .2%), while ACRP does not cite them. This is consistent with Jobber and Simpson's (1988) finding that American marketing journals tend not to cite European journals. This trend continues in other international journals, too. For example, the Journal of Economic Psychology cites ACRP 41 times over a four-year period (2.5% of the total cites), but is only cited by ACRP 6 times, producing less than .1% of the total citations.

At the other extreme are some psychology journals heavily cited by ACRP but which rarely cite it in return (see Table 6): Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Social Psychology (ratios of 0.01, 0.04, 0.14, respectively). JCR is more cited by ACRP than it cites (.42), as are most of the major marketing journals, such as Journal of Advertising Research (.08), Journal of Marketing Research (.13), Journal of Marketing (.17), and the Journal of Retailing (.36). Finally, Public Opinion Quarterly is frequently cited by ACRP authors, but the reverse is very rare. Overall, ACRP continues to grow as an interdisciplinary publication. Currently, ACRP authors are more likely to draw their citations from related disciplines than they are to cite ACRP itself or the consumer behavior literature in general. Some observers (Price 1970) identify this as a sign of either an evolving or an applied discipline.




The ACR conference proceedings serves the role of an informal communication network as the turn around time between the submission of a paper and the presentation of that paper at the conference is relatively brief (six months or so). A subset of the conference papers appear in the proceedings, and we have briefly analyzed the impact of that proceedings on related areas of academic inquiry.

In terms of citing patterns, we find that ACRP authors are quite eclectic and draw from a large number of areas. In fact, ACRP authors are more interdisciplinary in their citing behavior than are JCR authors. Nonetheless, we find that ACRP authors are tied fairly closely to the marketing literature, which provides the main source of their ideas (14%). There is also a surprisingly strong tendency to cite the business popular press (.5%).

There is some evidence that the consumer behavior field is maturing, as there is an increasing tendency for ACRP to rely on that literature (9.3% in 1987). Conversely, ACRP has had its biggest impact to date on the consumer behavior literature itself, as over 22% of all authors who cite ACRP do so from a consumer behavior journal. Nonetheless, ACRP has had a fairly strong impact on the marketing literature, as marketing authors made over 360 cites to ACRP in the four-year period which we studied. At the same time, ACRP is moderately influential for psychology (108 cites) and business (26 cites) authors. In addition, ACRP has had some impact on foreign marketing journals (31 total cites in the four-year period).

To date, ACRP has made a fairly strong impact on a wide variety of journals, especially in comparison to the impact other marketing-oriented journals typically have on related areas. And yet, ACRP requires a fairly idiosyncratic citation format as potential citers are required to include editors' names (and there are frequently multiple editors) as well as a place of publication. Under this format, a citation to an ACRP article can sometimes take up two times as much space (or more) than a citation to a traditional journal article. Perhaps ACR should consider shortening its citation format, in the spirit of eliminating barriers to future citations.







In many academic institutions, proceedings publications count very little toward promotion and tenure. Here we uncover some evidence that the ACRP is at least as prestigious as some journals, in terms of contributing to new knowledge in a wide variety of fields. ACRP papers are noticed and do inspire additional, follow-up work. It would be interesting to track the influence which specific ACRP papers have had by utilizing SSCI data to conduct a network analysis.

In this brief study, we have examined a small portion of academic knowledge use. One way that an academic can make use of a published paper is by reading it and subsequently citing that paper in a future publication. There are, of course, other ways that academics may utilize the knowledge contained in a journal article and there are other ways that non-academics may also use such knowledge. For example, a manager may read something and then think about a strategic problem in a new way. It would be interesting to expand the scope of investigation and look into other ways that ACRP articles may make a difference. In a similar vein, it would also be enlightening to examine the impact that non-published ACR presentations have. Over time, there is a trend for authors to elect not to publish their ACR papers in the proceedings; but these papers also have the potential to contribute to knowledge through an informal exchange network. Explorations of such informal networks require something other than a citation analysis.


Blau, Peter M. (1964), Exchange and Power in Social Life, New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Cronin, Blaise (1984), The Citation Process: The Role and Significance of Citations in Scientific Communication, London: Taylor Graham.

Garfield, Eugene (1979), Citation Indexing: Its Theory and Application in Science, Technology, and Humanities, New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Goldman, Arieh (1979), "Publishing Activity in Marketing as an Indicator of its Structure and Disciplinary Boundaries," Journal of Marketing Research, 16 (November), 485-494.

Jobber, David and Paul Simpson (1988), "A Citation Analysis of Selected Marketing Journals," International Journal of Research in Marketing, 5, 137-142.

Leong, Siew Meng (1989), "A Citation Analysis of the Journal of Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, 15 (March),492-497.

Lutz, Richard J. (1989), "Editorial", Journal of Consumer Research, 15 (March).

Price, D.J. De Solla (1986), Little Science, Big Science..And Beyond, New York: Columbia University Press.

Price, D.J. De Solla (1970), "Citation Measures of Hard Science, Soft Science, Technology, and Nonscience," in Communication Among Scientists and Engineers, Carnot E. Nelson and Donald K. Pollock, eds., Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath. 3-22.



George M. Zinkhan, University of Houston
Mary J. Saxton, University of Houston
Martin Roth, Boston College
Gerald Zaltman, University of Pittsburgh


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17 | 1990

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