How pluralistic is the research field on adult education? : Dominating bibliometrical trends, 2005-2012


  • Andreas Fejes Linköping University, Sweden
  • Erik Nylander Linköping University, Sweden



Adult education, bibliometrics, content analysis, sociology of science


What the field of adult education research is and how it can be described has been a debated issue over the decades. Several scholars argue that the field today is heterogeneous, borrowing theories and methods from a range of disciplines. In this article, we take such statements as a starting point for empirical analysis. In what ways could it be argued that the field is pluralistic rather than monolithic; heterogeneous rather than homogenous? Drawing on bibliographic data of the top cited articles in three main adult education journals between 2005 and 2012, we illustrate how the citation patterns have tendencies of homogeneity when it comes to the geographical country of authorship, since the USA, UK, Australia and Canada dominate, as well as the research methods adopted, since qualitative approaches have near total dominance. Furthermore, there is a tendency to adopt similar theoretical approaches, since sociocultural perspectives, critical pedagogy and post-structuralism represent more than half of the articles in our sample. At the same time, the results of our analysis indicate signs of scholarly pluralism, for instance, in terms of authorship, since both early career researchers and established researchers are represented among the top cited publications. We conclude the article by arguing that empirical analysis of publication and citation patterns is important to further the development of reflexivity within the field, not least for early career researchers, who might benefit from knowledge about what has been recognized among peers as worth citing in recent times.


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How to Cite

Fejes, A., & Nylander, E. (2015). How pluralistic is the research field on adult education? : Dominating bibliometrical trends, 2005-2012. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 6(2), 103–23.

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