Open Access

Mapping Diversity of Publication Patterns in the Social Sciences and Humanities: An Approach Making Use of Fuzzy Cluster Analysis



To present a method for systematically mapping diversity of publication patterns at the author level in the social sciences and humanities in terms of publication type, publication language and co-authorship.


In a follow-up to the hard partitioning clustering by Verleysen and Weeren in 2016, we now propose the complementary use of fuzzy cluster analysis, making use of a membership coefficient to study gradual differences between publication styles among authors within a scholarly discipline. The analysis of the probability density function of the membership coefficient allows to assess the distribution of publication styles within and between disciplines.


As an illustration we analyze 1,828 productive authors affiliated in Flanders, Belgium. Whereas a hard partitioning previously identified two broad publication styles, an international one vs. a domestic one, fuzzy analysis now shows gradual differences among authors. Internal diversity also varies across disciplines and can be explained by researchers’ specialization and dissemination strategies.

Research limitations

The dataset used is limited to one country for the years 2000–2011; a cognitive classification of authors may yield a different result from the affiliation-based classification used here.

Practical implications

Our method is applicable to other bibliometric and research evaluation contexts, especially for the social sciences and humanities in non-Anglophone countries.


The method proposed is a novel application of cluster analysis to the field of bibliometrics. Applied to publication patterns at the author level in the social sciences and humanities, for the first time it systematically documents intra-disciplinary diversity.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Computer Sciences, Information Technology, Project Management, Databases and Data Mining