Tracing Digital Footprints to Academic Articles: An Investigation of PeerJ Publication Referral Data
Abstract: In this study, we propose a novel way to explore the patterns of people’s visits to academic articles. About 3.4 million links to referral source of visitors of 1432 papers published in the journal of PeerJ are collected and analyzed. We find that at least 57% visits are from external referral sources, among which General Search Engine, Social Network, and News & Blog are the top three categories of referrals. Academic Resource, including academic search engines and academic publishers’ sites, is the fourth largest category of referral sources. In addition, our results show that Google contributes significantly the most in directing people to scholarly articles. This encompasses the usage of Google the search engine, Google Scholar the academic search engine, and diverse specific country domains of them. Focusing on similar disciplines to PeerJ’s publication scope, NCBI is the academic search engine on which people are the most frequently directed to PeerJ. Correlation analysis and regression analysis indicates that papers with more mentions are expected to have more visitors, and Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are the most commonly used social networking tools that refer people to PeerJ.