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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2007

[Board accepted]

A Study of References in Mining Engineering Publications

Linda Musser
Fletcher L. Byrom Earth and Mineral Sciences Library
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania

Copyright 2007, Linda Musser. Used with permission.


Studies of the mining engineering literature are few. In 1973, Zaremba and Alabyan used citation analysis to examine references in two Soviet mineral processing and metallurgy journals while a 1995 article by English and Wang examined the contents of 30 years of the SME Transactions. In their 1996 study of the characteristics of the engineering literature, Musser and Conkling urged further investigation of specific engineering disciplines. Their article provides some limited format data for mining engineering with the caveat that their sample was insufficient to draw accurate conclusions by discipline. This study examines references from mining engineering publications and contrasts the results with those from the 1996 study.


Musser and Conkling's 1996 study examined age and format of references from representative journals in engineering disciplines. In order to maximize the accuracy of comparisons to Musser and Conkling's data, the identical year, 1995, was selected from which to draw a sample of references. To minimize the effect of any one journal on the sample, articles from one issue of each journal were analyzed. The selection of journals to use was more challenging since mining engineering has a small core of discipline-wide journals with many others devoted to a particular sub-discipline, e.g., petroleum engineering. Rather than try to include journals from all the sub-disciplines and possibly skew results towards one aspect of the field, only those publications which had a broad focus were selected. This resulted in the elimination from the sample of several prestigious titles such as Mining and Metallurgical Processing, which focuses primarily on mineral processing, and SPE Journal, which has a petroleum engineering focus. ISI's Journal Citation Reports (JCR) was consulted as a possible source of top titles in the field, however it proved to be of limited usefulness. The top listing for the field of mining engineering was Journal of Nuclear Materials, a title containing little mining engineering at all. In the end, a combination of methods was used to select the titles for the sample, including the JCR list, journal lists from guides to the engineering literature, journal lists from engineering databases, and the experience of engineering librarians from institutions with mining engineering programs.

After compiling a list of relevant journals (see Table 1), each was examined to verify its appropriateness for this study. In addition to those titles eliminated due to subject matter, i.e., too narrowly focused on a sub-discipline, several other titles were eliminated because they lacked any articles containing references. Because of the smaller than expected sample size, the 1995 proceeding volume from a long-standing annual conference was selected to be included in the sample. To compensate for the fact that the proceedings, as an annual, had more articles than the average journal issue, which were mostly quarterly, every fourth paper in proceedings was included in the sample. With the inclusion of the conference volume, the sample size became large enough to achieve a ten percent error rate as calculated using the number of general mining engineering articles in the COMPENDEX and IMM Abstracts databases from that time period. For all issues in the sample, references from each article were categorized as to format and age. Although some references fell into multiple format categories, only one format was assigned to each reference.

Table 1: List of sources
Titles of serial sources # of articles # of references
CIM Bulletin 3 14
Geotechnical and Geological Engineering 4 35
International Conference on Ground Control in Mining (annual) 10 103
International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Science 7 176
International Journal of Surface Mining Reclamation and the Environment 10 90
Journal of Mines, Metals and Fuels 3 31
Journal of Mining Science 13 66
Journal of South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy 5 82
Mineral Resources Engineering 5 38
Mining Engineering 3 35
Mining Industry (IMM) 8 53
Mining Technology 3 30
Transactions of AIME (Mining volume) 7 109
TOTAL 81 862

Results and Analysis

A total of 862 references were examined in this study. Analysis of the aging pattern indicated that 50% of references were to materials eight years old or less, 75% of references were to materials sixteen years old or less, and 90% of references were twenty-eight years old or less. The ages of references ranged from zero to 102 years old. Of the formats cited, 41% were journal articles, 22% were conference papers, 18% were books, 12% were technical reports, 3% were dissertations/theses, and the remaining 4% were to other materials such as software, patents, unpublished materials, product literature and standards.

The age distribution of references in this study is very similar to that for all engineering disciplines as reported by Musser and Conkling (see Table 2). When age is analyzed by format (see Table 3), the most heavily used materials remained useful for several decades, although conference papers aged more rapidly than books, and journal articles.

Table 2: Age of References
Percent of all references Mining Engineering All Engineering disciplines (from Musser & Conkling) 1996 Mining engineering data (unpublished; from Musser and Conkling)
50% 8 years or less 7 years or less 10 years or less
75% 16 years or less 15 years or less  
90% 28 years or less 25 years or less 33 years or less

Table 3: Age of References by Format
  Journal articles Conference papers Books All
50% 9 years or less 7 years or less 11 years or less 8 years or less
75% 18 years or less 13 years or less 20 years or less 16 years or less
90% 30 years or less 21 years or less 30 years or less 28 years or less

The format distribution for mining engineering appears to be similar to that of engineering as a whole, rather than differing significantly, as implied from Musser and Conkling's mining engineering data (see Table 4). Journal articles remain the most heavily used format, followed by conference papers, books, technical reports, dissertations/theses, and other materials -- the same order of importance as engineering as a whole.

Table 4: Formats of References
Format Mining Engineering All Engineering 1996 Mining engineering data (unpublished; from Musser and Conkling)
Journal articles 41% 53% 23%
Conference papers 22% 19% 5%
Books 18% 12% 27%
Technical reports 12% 9% 41%
Dissertations/Theses 3% 3% 5%
Other 4% 4% 0%


The results of this study indicate that the literature of mining engineering is similar to that of engineering as a whole. Mining engineers are heavy users of journals, conference papers, books, and technical reports. Distribution of usage among formats is moderately spread with no format achieving the 50% usage mark. It also indicates that the journal Mining Engineering, used as the representative journal in the 1996 study, is not representative of the field of mining engineering.

Implications of this study for managers with collections of mining engineering materials include the fact that many materials remain valuable for nearly 30 years, although this is less the case with conference papers. Needless to say, specific titles may remain valuable for much longer. Additionally, those collecting materials for mining engineering collections must take care to balance their journal collections with significant numbers of conference proceedings, books and technical reports.


English, Lloyd M. and Y.J. Wang. 1995. Mining research trends as reflected in SME Transactions, 1961-1990. Mining Engineering 47(10):927-931.

Musser, Linda R. and Thomas W. Conkling. 1996. Characteristics of engineering citations. Science and Technology Libraries 15(4):41-49.

Zaremba, S.A. and I.M. Alabyan. ca. 1979. The structure of information flow in the concentration of useful minerals" RTS 9933. 11 p. (translation of "Struktura informatsionnogo potoka po obogashcheniyu poleznykh iskopaemykh" Nauchno-Tekhnicheskaya Informatysiya - seriya 1, 12 (1973):17-19).

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