The Society for Research into Higher Education

Are academic papers written with students cited as often as academic papers written with colleagues?

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By James Hartley

This note compares the citation rates for publications written by the author alone with (i) those written by the author and fellow colleagues and (ii) those written together with undergraduates. Although the citation rates for publications written by the author alone, or with colleagues, are higher than those obtained for papers written with undergraduates, the data suggest that some teacher-student papers can make a substantial contribution to the research literature.                                                                                                       


As an academic author I often wonder whether or not my papers with undergraduates are cited as often as my papers with colleagues.  On the one hand, colleagues are often more experienced and generally more familiar with academic writing and publishing than undergraduates.  On the other, undergraduates in the UK sometimes author papers arising from the research that they carried out in their final year supervised by academic staff.  To answer this query I used the website Google Scholar to examine a sample of how often my single-authored publications were cited with respect to (i) those written with colleagues and (ii) those written with undergraduate students.

Some data

Table 1 shows the results.

Table 1.  Median citation rates for 11 papers written (i) by the author alone, (ii) with colleagues, and (iii) with undergraduates.  (Data from Google Scholar 22/10/2017)

Author alone     Author with colleagues  Author with undergraduates

Median                87                                           83                                           22

Range                   61-140                                   63-393                                   7-124

N                             11                                           11                                           11

(A list of all 33 publications and their citation data is available from the author on request.)


As Table 1 shows these results are clear (for this particular author).  There is little overall difference between the median citation rates for papers written alone, or with colleagues.  However, the papers written with undergraduates are cited significantly less.

What does this imply?  Is it a waste of time to publish with one’s undergraduate students?  I think not for at least three overlapping reasons.

  1. The issues studied by students indicate what they think is interesting and important. Most of them focus on their experiences as learners – attending lectures, taking notes, and writing essays (e.g., see Hartley & Cameron, 1966; Hartley & Marshall, 1974).
  2. Preliminary studies conducted with students can form the basis for subsequent more substantive work on the same concerns – either by the author alone, or with other colleagues and students (see, for example, Hartley & Davies, 1976, Trueman & Hartley, 1996).
  3. The fact that some of these jointly-authored publications are still being cited today by other authors (see, e.g., Miyatsu, Nguyen & McDaniel, 2018) suggests that some preliminary work with students can make a seminal contribution to a particular field.


Hartley, J. & Cameron, A. (1966).  Some observations on the efficiency of lecturing.  Educational Review, 20, 30-37.

Hartley, J. & Davies, I. K. (1976).  Note-taking: A critical review.  Programmed Learning & Educational Technology, 15, 3, 207-224.

Hartley, J. & Marshall, S. (1974). One notes and notetaking.  Universities Quarterly, 28, 225-235.

Miyatsu, T., Nguyen, K. & McDaniel, M. A. (2018).  Five popular study strategies: Their pitfalls and optimal implementations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13, 3, 390-407.

Trueman, M. & Hartley, J. (1996).  A comparison between the time-management strategies and academic performance of mature and traditional-entry students in higher education.  Higher Education, 32, 2, 199-215.

SRHE member James Hartley is emeritus professor in the School of Psychology at Keele University.  He may be contacted at

Author: SRHE News Blog

An international learned society, concerned with supporting research and researchers into Higher Education

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