n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology -

Special Edition 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Academic journals often represent the 'zeitgeist' (defining mood or spirit) of the current debates and new developments in a discipline. We asked the question 'Where have we been and where are we going' with the aim, among others, of revealing insights into trends of research topics, author productivity and methodological aspects of the journal. A content analysis was conducted of articles published in the journal between the twenty-year period of 1994 and 2013, in order to describe shifts in the origins of publications, the number and post-level of authors, research methods, units of analysis, themes and matters related to the incorporation of policy and theory in publications. Having excluded special and conference editions, a total of 629 articles were included in the analysis. The twenty-year period was divided into five four-year terms to facilitate time-trend analyses. Depending on the nature of the variables involved, statistically significant differences over the five intervals were determined by means of the Mann-Whitney U and Kruskall-Wallis H tests. Significant shifts featured in terms of local versus international publications (p=0.013); the universities that contributed to the journal (p=0.006); the number and post-levels of authors per publication (p&lt;0.001); the frequency of empirical versus literature-based articles (p&lt;0.001); and the research approaches (p<0.001) and designs (p=0.010) of contributions. Further insights were revealed regarding the units of analysis used in published work, as well as fluctuations in the thematic content of articles. The limited use of theory in publications and minimal focus on the value of research with regard to policy and decision-making remain a cause of concern. Overall, the research demonstrated the value of critically reflecting over time on the trends in publication in the with the view of informing future directions.

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