Bibliography histogram

I recently noticed something in a book I’ve had for five years: the bibliography section ends with a histogram of publication dates for references. I’ve used the book over the last few years, but maybe I haven’t needed to look at the bibliography before.

publication date histogram

This is taken from Bernstein’s Matrix Mathematics. I wrote a review of it here.

An up-to-date bibliography isn’t always necessary. One of the references I use the most is nearly 60 years old, and another book I pull down occasionally is 100 years old. But sometimes you do need a current reference, and a histogram of publication dates is a good way for the author to demonstrate that the references are up to date.

By the way, notice the phantom diagonal lines across the histogram? That’s a moirĂ©.[1]


[1] Pun on this and this.

One thought on “Bibliography histogram

  1. The growth in citations, in this plot, looks roughly linear. The growth in citations for my Evidence based software engineering book are exponential . The plot in the 7th edition of “Cognitive Psychology and its implications” by J Anderson, published in 2010, peaks around 1985, and is a none peaky Normal distribution.

    Does Anderson’s 1985 peak reflect a particularly active time for the field, or the time when he had the time to do lots of reading before becoming a busy professor?

    Does the exponential growth in my book reflect a rapidly growing field, or the rapid irrelevance of papers with time (I thinkt he former)?

    Does the Bernstein plot reflect a growing field, or him being more likely to remember more recent papers?

    I wish more authors would produce these plots. They are an indications of what they have read, and how upto date the book might be.

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