Journal of Data and Information Science ›› 2020, Vol. 5 ›› Issue (3): 18-32.doi: 10.2478/jdis-2020-0024

• Research Papers • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Historical Bibliometrics Using Google Scholar: The Case of Roman Law, 1727-2016

Janne Pölönen1,(), Björn Hammarfelt2   

  1. 1Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, Snellmaninkatu 13, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
    2Swedish School of Library and Information Science, University of Bor?s, Allégatan 1, Bor?s, 503 32, Sweden;
  • Received:2020-01-25 Revised:2020-05-12 Accepted:2020-06-11 Online:2020-07-20 Published:2020-09-04
  • Contact: Janne P?l?nen


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the historical and linguistic coverage of Google Scholar, using publications in the field of Roman law as an example.

Design/methodology/approach: To create a dataset of Roman law publications, we retrieved a total of 21,300 records of publications, published between years 1500 and 2016, with title including words denoting “Roman law” in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Findings: We were able to find publications dating back to 1727. The largest number of publications and authors date to the late 19 th century, and this peak might be explained by the role of Roman law in French legal education at the time. Furthermore, we found exceptionally skewed concentration of publications to authors, as well as of citations to publications. We speculate that this could be explained by the long time-frame of the study, and the importance of classic works.

Research limitation: Major limitations, and potential future work, relate to data quality, and cleaning, disambiguation of publications and authors, as well as comparing coverage with other data sources.

Practical implications: We find Google Scholar to be a promising data source for historical bibliometrics. This approach may help bridge the gap between bibliometrics and the “digital humanities”.

Originality/value: Earlier studies have focused mainly on Google Scholar’s coverage of publications and citations in general, or in specific fields. The historical coverage has, however, received less attention.

Key words: Historical bibliometrics, Google Scholar, Roman law