Information Security: A Scientometric Study of the Profile, Structure, and Dynamics of an Emerging Scholarly Specialty

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Year of Completion


First Advisor

Heting Chu


The central aim of the current research is to explore and describe the profile, dynamics, and structure of the information security specialty. This study's objectives are guided by four research questions:

1. What are the salient features of information security as a specialty?

2. How has the information security specialty emerged and evolved from the temporal perspective?

3. What scholarly domains contribute to information security in light of the sources used by researchers from the specialty?

4. What is the intellectual structure underlying the specialty of information security?

Scientometrics techniques, including co-citation, co-word, and network analyses, constitute the research methodology for this dissertation. Bibliometric data, extracted from 58,908 Scopus document records for the period 1972-2014, were examined and analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively to address the research questions of this study. Specifically, descriptive statistics were employed to establish the information security specialty's profile and changes over time. One hundred of the highest cited documents and most frequently occurring keywords were used as the basis for multivariate and network analyses to determine the information security specialty's intellectual structure.

This scientometric study presents a comprehensive view of the information security specialty from different perspectives. After a long and steady period of growth (i.e., 1972-2001), an exponential publication output occurred in the decade of 2001-2010 reflecting a societal shift from industrialization to informationalization. Among all the countries involved in the information security research, the United States and China contributed the greatest number of documents in the specialty. Chinese researchers, however, had little impact on the specialty in terms of citation counts while American researchers topped the citation chart. Information security, as a specialty, received its vast majority of publications from the technical fields of computer science and engineering. Upon closer examination of its intellectual structure, the current researcher discovered that the specialty was primarily dichotomous between technical and social domains because social or process-oriented research topics such as information security management held notable positions in the specialty along with technical topics (e.g., cryptography).

This dissertation research provides science managers with what they need to engineer an information security specialty that is better positioned to deal with information security threats and vulnerabilities. Amid its implications for high-level information security science managing, this study reduces the complexity of the specialty to controllable terms, supplies objective data for science policy making, identifies the most productive academic institutions, and demonstrates historical movements locally as well as internationally. At the lower level of information security research, it serves as an information retrieval tool to identify key authors, source titles, and documents and makes explicit the intellectual links between researchers, works, and research topics. Finally, it adds to the accumulated wealth of knowledge on the science of scholarly domains by shedding light on the nature of specialty development.