Background: There are no analyses of citations to books on epidemiological and statistical methods in the biomedical literature. Such analyses may shed light on how concepts and methods changed while biomedical research evolved. Our aim was to analyze the number and time trends of citations received from biomedical articles by books on epidemiological and statistical methods, and related disciplines.
Methods and findings: The data source was the Web of Science. The study books were published between 1957 and 2010. The first year of publication of the citing articles was 1945. We identified 125 books that received at least 25 citations. Books first published in 1980-1989 had the highest total and median number of citations per year. Nine of the 10 most cited texts focused on statistical methods. Hosmer & Lemeshow's Applied logistic regression received the highest number of citations and highest average annual rate. It was followed by books by Fleiss, Armitage, et al., Rothman, et al., and Kalbfleisch and Prentice. Fifth in citations per year was Sackett, et al., Evidence-based medicine. The rise of multivariate methods, clinical epidemiology, or nutritional epidemiology was reflected in the citation trends. Educational textbooks, practice-oriented books, books on epidemiological substantive knowledge, and on theory and health policies were much less cited. None of the 25 top-cited books had the theoretical or sociopolitical scope of works by Cochrane, McKeown, Rose, or Morris.
Conclusions: Books were mainly cited to reference methods. Books first published in the 1980s continue to be most influential. Older books on theory and policies were rooted in societal and general medical concerns, while the most modern books are almost purely on methods.