Co-Citation Networks from Letter Mentions: A Short Guide

A co-citation network is a network model which uses the principle that those mentioned (or cited) in the same document may share some kind of link. This kind of work has been widely used to understand, for example, the structure of communities of scholars—based on the principle that if two documents are often cited in the same document, they likely have some kind of semantic link, used, for example, to check to see if the authors in the communities have any shared characteristics, or whether there are distinct communities of scholars or academic areas which repeatedly cite each other. Bipartite networks have also been used to understand ecological food webs – connecting animals which are all prey for the same predator, for example, or flowers pollinated by the same insect.

The method can also be used to understand other types of citations. One project, Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, uses co-citation of people in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles as a way of inferring some kind of likely social connection – again, based on the premise that if two people were repeatedly mentioned together in articles, they likely share some kind of link. Or, as done here, you could use co-citation to draw links between two individuals, if they are cited, or mentioned, in the same letter.

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