At the beginning of this year I presented a list of the most cited works in social policy, which I’ve included on the website after recommended readings. Martin Powell has just produced a paper on Citation classics in social policy journals (Social Policy and Administration 50(6) 648-672) in which he checks the citations of the five leading journals in the field.
Most of the most cited articles (50 out of 79) were conceptual, not empirical. The highest rate of citation on Google Scholar for any single article was under 1200. (That article was Arts, W. and 2002), Three worlds of welfare capitalism or more? , Journal of European Social Policy 12(2) 137-58.) By comparison, there are books in social policy which have been cited twenty or thirty times more often; of the top 27 titles I’ve listed, only four refer to articles in journals.(
There is a kind of snobbery in the field, however, which elevates empirical work above conceptual writing, and in any case looks down on books. One senior researcher told me that when he was a student, his very eminent supervisor asked him which work had most excited him and engaged him about Social Policy. He’d answered, Paul Spicker’s book on Social Policy. She said, “That’s a textbook – you can’t mean that.” The book in question is still unique – but it seems that refereed, original work doesn’t count if it’s also written to be accessible to students.