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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A citation analysis of "Adult education quarterly" 1971-1986 Kavanagh, Richard Owen


Adult education has long been described as an emerging discipline, but there has been little empirical study of its emergence. This study examined 'emergence' by monitoring that particular knowledge base which is unique to adult education. Studies concerned with the theory and practice of adult education are a quantifiable indicator of unique knowledge about adult education. Evidence that researchers in adult education increasingly cite the work of other researchers in adult education would support the contention that the body of knowledge in adult education is growing. The articles published in Adult Education Quarterly between 1971 and 1986 were analyzed using citation analysis methodology. The frequency of citation to previous adult education studies (primary literature) as opposed to citation of studies peripheral to an adult education context (secondary literature) was determined. Distinguishing between citation categories was carried out by analyzing each title cited. The phenomenon of concern in the cited article was interpreted from the words used in the title, and coded dichotomously as 'primary literature' or 'secondary literature'. Each coded item was then recorded under named authors; thus, the cited author was credited for total frequency cited along with the coded category of writing (author of primary literature or author of secondary literature). Reliability measures performed for intra-judge consistency (recoding data), and inter-judge agreement (independent coding of data) resulted in differences in coding of less than four percent for the former, and nine percent with the latter. Validity of the procedures used in coding cited authors was tested by comparing results obtained to a 'standard'. 'Independent experts' were asked to identify from a list of the twenty most cited authors from each four volume period, those who were "primarily known for their adult education activities." The study's coding outcome of these authors compared with the expert's 'standard' resulted in greater than 75 percent agreement. With 4700 citations classified, it was found that a rising percentage of citations were to the "authors of primary literature"; from 41 percent of all citations in the first half of the study period (1971-1978), to 46 percent in the last half (1979-1986). A further breakdown showed the percentage of citations to "primary literature journals" also increasing; from 31 percent of all journals cited in '1971-1978' to 39 percent in '1979-1986'. As the scope of literature analyzed was exclusively from one North American journal, results need to be regarded with this limitation in mind. However, the empirical evidence of an increasing 'primary literature' base in adult education research suggests emergence of the field. Implications for future research are discussed in light of this and previous studies.

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