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Versioning boundary objects: the citation profile of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM)

Kai Li (School of Information Resource Management, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China)
Chenyue Jiao (School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, USA)
Cassidy R. Sugimoto (School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Vincent Larivière (École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l'information, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 23 November 2021

Issue publication date: 30 May 2022




Research objects, such as datasets and classification standards, are difficult to be incorporated into a document-centric framework of citations, which relies on unique citable works. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorder (DSM)—a dominant classification scheme used for mental disorder diagnosis—however provides a unique lens on examining citations to a research object, given that it straddles the boundaries as a single research object with changing manifestations.


Using over 180,000 citations received by the DSM, this paper analyzes how the citation history of DSM is represented by its various versions, and how it is cited in different knowledge domains as an important boundary object.


It shows that all recent DSM versions exhibit a similar citation cascading pattern, which is characterized by a strong replacement effect between two successive versions. Moreover, the shift of the disciplinary contexts of DSM citations can be largely explained by different DSM versions as distinct epistemic objects.

Practical implications

Based on these results, the authors argue that all DSM versions should be treated as a series of connected but distinct citable objects. The work closes with a discussion of the ways in which the existing scholarly infrastructure can be reconfigured to acknowledge and trace a broader array of research objects.


This paper connects quantitative methods and an important sociological concept, i.e. boundary object, to offer deeper insights into the scholarly communication system. Moreover, this work also evaluates how versioning, as a significant yet overlooked attribute of information resources, influenced the citation patterns of citable objects, which will contribute to more material-oriented scientific infrastructures.



Li, K., Jiao, C., Sugimoto, C.R. and Larivière, V. (2022), "Versioning boundary objects: the citation profile of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM)", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 78 No. 4, pp. 871-889.



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