Highly Cited Papers
Generally, citations to papers peak in the second, third, or fourth year after publication, but some papers continue to be cited for many years. A few papers can exhibit delayed recognition (Sleeping Beauty). The patterns can vary greatly depending on the type of paper, the field, and the nature of the finding reported. Papers reporting discoveries, for example, can rise quickly and then fall as the discovery is further elaborated in other articles. Papers reporting methods or techniques can gradually increase in citation frequency over several years as the methods diffuse throughout the community and prove their utility.
Papers generally reach their citation peak two, three, or four years after publication. A small group of papers, however, are recognized very soon after publication, reflected by rapid and significant numbers of citations. These papers are often key papers in their fields and are referred to as hot papers.