Research Article

The Anatomy of a Data Citation: Discovery, Reuse, and Credit

  • Hailey Mooney (Michigan State University Libraries 366 W. Circle Drive East Lansing, MI 48824)
  • Mark P Newton (Production Manager, Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, Columbia University)


INTRODUCTION Data citation should be a necessary corollary of data publication and reuse. Many researchers are reluctant to share their data, yet they are increasingly encouraged to do just that. Reward structures must be in place to encourage data publication, and citation is the appropriate tool for scholarly acknowledgment. Data citation also allows for the identification, retrieval, replication, and verification of data underlying published studies. METHODS This study examines author behavior and sources of instruction in disciplinary and cultural norms for writing style and citation via a content analysis of journal articles, author instructions, style manuals, and data publishers. Instances of data citation are benchmarked against a Data Citation Adequacy Index. RESULTS Roughly half of journals point toward a style manual that addresses data citation, but the majority of journal articles failed to include an adequate citation to data used in secondary analysis studies. DISCUSSION Full citation of data is not currently a normative behavior in scholarly writing. Multiplicity of data types and lack of awareness regarding existing standards contribute to the problem. CONCLUSION Citations for data must be promoted as an essential component of data publication, sharing, and reuse. Despite confounding factors, librarians and information professionals are well-positioned and should persist in advancing data citation as a normative practice across domains. Doing so promotes a value proposition for data sharing and secondary research broadly, thereby accelerating the pace of scientific research.

How to Cite:

Mooney, H. & Newton, M. P., (2012) “The Anatomy of a Data Citation: Discovery, Reuse, and Credit”, Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 1(1), eP1035. doi:

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Published on
15 May 2012
Peer Reviewed