Exploring an Unknown Territory: “Sleeping Beauties” in the Nursing Research Literature

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Abstract

Background

Sleeping Beauties (SBs) are publications that are scarcely cited in the years immediately following publication but then suddenly become highly cited later. Such publications have unique citation patterns and can reveal important developments in the field in which they appear.

Objectives

No holistic analysis of nursing SBs has been done yet. The aim of this study was to identify and analyze the SB phenomenon in the nursing research literature.

Method

The corpus for the nursing SB identification was harvested from the Web of Science Core Collection (Thomas Reuters) for the period 1934–2015. Citation histories of 212,239 publications were screened. From those, 3,209 publications with more than 100 citations were selected for analysis. We used our own software and applied the van Raan (2004) and Baumgartner (2010) criteria for SBs—a 5-year sleeping period with at most 10 citations during that time, an average of at least five citations per year after the first 10 years, with at least 100 citations in total. The knowledge context for SBs was determined using citing papers. All citing papers were analyzed with the help of VOSviewer software.

Results

Nine publications were identified as SBs (prevalence of 0.004%). The length of sleep duration ranged from 5 to 10 years (M = 6.8, SD = 2.0), depth of sleep ranged from 0.2 to 0.8 citations (M = 0.6, SD = 0.2), and awake intensity ranged from 6.4 to 15.0 citations (M = 11.0, SD = 3.8). The average number of citations to SBs was 229. Most nursing SBs were produced in the United States (n = 8) from top institutions in journals with high-impact factors. Nursing SBs covered topics including resilience, sampling in qualitative research, metasynthesis, postoperative pain in children, dementia rating scales, care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, nursing theory related to fatigue mechanisms in cancer patients, and family participation during resuscitation. Nursing SBs were cited by authors from a large number of institutions and countries; the number of publications citing nursing SBs is growing exponentially and showing increasing and global interest in the research presented in them.

Discussion

This study demonstrated that SBs in nursing are similar to other scientific disciplines. Existence of SBs suggests that nursing knowledge accumulation is supported by research and professional processes similar to those that emerged in other academic disciplines.

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