Why are co-authored academic articles more cited: Higher quality or larger audience?

Mike Thelwall, Kayvan Kousha, Mahshid Abdoli, Emma Stuart, Meiko Makita, Paul Wilson, Jonathan Levitt

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint

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Co-authored articles tend to be more cited in many academic fields, but is this because they tend to be higher quality or is it an audience effect: increased awareness through multiple author networks? We address this unknown with the largest investigation yet into whether author numbers associate with research quality, using expert peer quality judgements for 122,331 non-review journal articles submitted by UK academics for the 2014-20 national assessment process. Spearman correlations between the number of authors and the quality scores show moderately strong positive associations (0.2-0.4) in the health, life, and physical sciences, but weak or no positive associations in engineering, and social sciences. In contrast, we found little or no association in the arts and humanities, and a possible negative association for decision sciences. This gives reasonably conclusive evidence that greater numbers of authors associates with higher quality journal articles in the majority of academia outside the arts and humanities, at least for the UK. Positive associations between team size and citation counts in areas with little association between team size and quality also show that audience effects or other non-quality factors account for the higher citation rates of co-authored articles in some fields.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2022


  • cs.DL


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