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National citation patterns of NEJM, The Lancet, JAMA and The BMJ in the lay press: a quantitative content analysis
  1. Gonzalo Casino1,
  2. Roser Rius2,
  3. Erik Cobo2
  1. 1Department of Communication, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
  2. 2Department of Statistics and Operations Research, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gonzalo Casino;{at}


Objectives To analyse the total number of newspaper articles citing the four leading general medical journals and to describe national citation patterns.

Design Quantitative content analysis.

Setting/sample Full text of 22 general newspapers in 14 countries over the period 2008–2015, collected from LexisNexis. The 14 countries have been categorised into four regions: the USA, the UK, Western World (European countries other than the UK, and Australia, New Zealand and Canada) and Rest of the World (other countries).

Main outcome measure Press citations of four medical journals (two American: NEJM and JAMA; and two British: The Lancet and The BMJ) in 22 newspapers.

Results British and American newspapers cited some of the four analysed medical journals about three times a week in 2008–2015 (weekly mean 3.2 and 2.7 citations, respectively); the newspapers from other Western countries did so about once a week (weekly mean 1.1), and those from the Rest of the World cited them about once a month (monthly mean 1.1). The New York Times cited above all other newspapers (weekly mean 4.7). The analysis showed the existence of three national citation patterns in the daily press: American newspapers cited mostly American journals (70.0% of citations), British newspapers cited mostly British journals (86.5%) and the rest of the analysed press cited more British journals than American ones. The Lancet was the most cited journal in the press of almost all Western countries outside the USA and the UK. Multivariate correspondence analysis confirmed the national patterns and showed that over 85% of the citation data variability is retained in just one single new variable: the national dimension.

Conclusion British and American newspapers are the ones that cite the four analysed medical journals more often, showing a domestic preference for their respective national journals; non-British and non-American newspapers show a common international citation pattern.

  • medical journalism
  • public health

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  • Contributors GC designed the study and collected the data, with inputs from EC and RR. RR performed the correspondence analysis. GC, EC and RR analysed the data and interpreted the findings. All the authors wrote and approved the final manuscript. GC is the guarantor.

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work. RR and EC belong to MiRoR (Methods in Research on Research), which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 676207. EC is partially supported by grants MTM2015-64465-C2-1-R (MINECO/FEDER) from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Spain), and 2014 SGR 464 from the Departament d’Economia i Coneixement de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Extra data can be accessed via the Dryad data repository at with the doi:10.5061/dryad.bh576.

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