Bryan A. Sisk,1 Griffin S. Collins,2 Claire Dillenbeck,3 J. Jeffrey Malatack4
To determine the types of peer-reviewed articles (eg, original study or review) that cite Pediatrics case reports and the appropriate or inappropriate manner in which they are cited.
The 20 most highly cited Pediatrics case reports of the 381 published between January 2011 and April 2016 were identified. All English-language articles that referenced these case reports were obtained and analyzed for the appropriateness of the case report citation. We considered 2 types of appropriate citations: referring to the original publication specifically as a case report or citing the case report as background general knowledge. We considered an inappropriate citation as using the case report as proof of causal inference, proof of mechanism of pathogenesis or treatment, and when the citation was irrelevant to claims being supported. “Original studies” were defined as articles reporting original data, excluding case reports. Two authors independently coded all citations. Agreement was good for appropriateness vs inappropriateness (κ=0.86) and for further classification of appropriate citations (κ=0.76).
The top 20 case reports were cited by 479 articles (median, 24 citations per case report), accounting for 24.4% of all case report citations. For further analysis, articles were excluded if they were written in a non-English language (n=36), unable to be obtained (n=3), or erroneously included in our search (n=1). These remaining 440 articles were published in 281 unique journals. Most articles (83.4%, n=367) appropriately cited case reports, of which 53.4% (n=196) referred to the study specifically as a case report and 46.6% (n=171) used the case report to support general knowledge. For inappropriate citations, 63.3% (n=50/79) used case reports as proof of causal inference, 15.2% (n=12/79) used case reports as proof of mechanism of pathogenesis or treatment, and 21.5% (n=17/79) were irrelevant citations. Inappropriate citations of case reports were published in 60 unique journals, which ranged from national to international, from low to high reported Impact Factors. Case reports were most commonly cited by review articles (38.7%, n=170) and original studies (30.9%, n=136).
Most of the more highly cited Pediatrics case reports reviewed were cited appropriately. These top 20 case reports were most commonly cited by review articles and original studies, suggesting that case reports support general knowledge and development of original studies. This study is limited by the narrow subset of case reports analyzed, which may limit generalizability. Further study should investigate whether case reports from other major journals are cited appropriately.
1Department of Pediatrics, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, MO, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org; 2Department of Pediatrics, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, MO, USA; 3College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA; 4Department of Pediatrics, Thomas Jefferson University Sidney Kimmel Medical School, Wilmington, DE, USA
Conflict of Interest Disclosures:
Bryan Sisk is the editorial fellow for Pediatrics. Jeffrey Malatack is the section editor for Case Reports in Pediatrics. No other potential conflicts of interest were reported.
We would like to acknowledge Lauren Yaeger for her support in developing search strategies for this study. Also, we would like thank Dr Alex Kemper and Dr Lewis First for their continued support with revisions.