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VOSViewer: A Network Mapping Tool for Analyzing Topics with a Substantive Knowledge Base

Christine Tappan, Abt Associates


June 22, 2022

This brief by Abt Associates discusses one of our preferred tools for processing large amounts of information: VOSViewer. Abt experts use VOSViewer to develop network maps of literature, which can be structured around individual authors or researchers, institutions, journals, or individual publications and can be based on patterns in co-authorship, citations, or bibliometric information. Thematic analyses of keywords and themes in a body of literature can also be produced with the tool.

Large scale synthesis and systematic review of active research can be challenging. Traditional methods require experts to read and condense many articles and contextualize insights without having useful tools to deliver results at speed and scale. Abt uses 21st century digital and analytic tools, along with subject matter insights, to determine where the current literature is, who is saying what, how interconnected those voices are, and whether there is consensus via common language.

The benefits of using VOSViewer include:

  • Identifying patterns and themes across publications. What are the major themes in a body of literature? How have they developed over time? What is the direction of a field of study?
  • Describing the extent to which, and how, communities of scholars and research institutions are interconnected. Who produces the current knowledge base on a topic? How are these individuals or groups of individuals connected? Who is more/less connected?
  •  Revealing gaps that need to be filled in the literature base.

Tool like VOSViewer are critical to providing actionable insights and data-driven decision making. They help help accelerate and expand the search for published and unpublished works and identify key themes and emerging trends in the literature.