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Spring 1992 · Vol. 21 No. 1 · pp. 83–93 

A Bibliometric Study of Direction

Richard Thiessen

The following is a bibliometric study of Direction from 1972 to 1991. This article addresses the question of what quantitative and evaluative statements can be made about the journal which has been the principle medium of formal communications for Mennonite Brethren church and conference leaders, pastors, and educators over the last two decades. By investigating and describing the characteristics of Direction, one may be able to shed light on the biblical and theological scholarship in the Mennonite Brethren denomination in general.

How have the editors as “gate keepers” performed?

Two sets of questions are asked about the articles published in Direction. The first set of questions is concerned with the number of articles published per year, the length of the articles, the number of articles containing citations, the number of citations in each article, the subject and format of each article, and the number of articles written by more than one author. The second set of questions is concerned with the authors and their occupational status, gender, geographical location, denominational affiliation, and school of employment (for those employed at an educational institution). {84}


According to A. Pritchard, the purpose of bibliometrics is “to shed light on the process of written communications and of the nature and course of a discipline (in so far as this is displayed through written communication) by means of counting and analyzing the various facets of written communication.” 1 Thus, bibliometrics is the statistical description of a literature—a group of related documents. It allows a literature to be described and monitored. 2

There are two types of bibliometric studies. The first, known as descriptive studies, is concerned with describing the features of a literature or a publication. These include: those responsible for the composition of information; the medium of communication; the subject matter; and the amount of information conveyed. 3 This article is an example of a descriptive study.

The second type of bibliometric studies, behavioral studies, explores the bibliographic relationships between publications. This is done through citation analysis—a study of the works cited by the authors of a body of literature or of an individual publication. 4 Behavioral studies can show the relationship between different authors, bodies of literature, and different disciplines.

Schrader states that “bibliometric patterns try to portray a certain kind of human behavior with respect to the flow of information.” 5 The various editors of Direction have acted as “gatekeepers” over the years. Out of the body of scholarly research and thought that exists in the Mennonite Brethren church, they have determined what kinds of information will flow, and whose thoughts and ideas will be exposed to a wider audience. By empirically observing and measuring the bibliometric characteristics of Direction, one can identify the kinds of information that have been published and describe the authors who have created it.

Those involved in bibliometrics argue that the literature of a field represents the field itself, “in that all the important problems and issues addressed by the intellectual community have been documented for peer review and have survived the field’s formal systems of refereeing, editing, and publishing.” 6 Direction represents a field—biblical and theological dialogue in the M.B. denomination. By describing the characteristics {85} of Direction, we can learn something about the journal and the denomination itself.


Some of the terms used in this study require definition.

Article. For the purposes of this study, an article is defined as any contribution to Direction, other than reviews of current research, Historical Endnotes and book reviews.

Length. The length of an article is the number of pages, including parts of pages, that an article encompasses. This includes text and citations or bibliographies.

Citations. A citation is a reference to a source of information, appearing as a footnote, an end note, or within the text of an article. Works to which the reader is referred for further reading are considered as citations Bibliography items are not considered citations, nor are scripture references.

Number of unique citations. The number of unique citations is determined by the number of items found in a bibliography, or the number of unique citations within an article if no bibliography is present. Several references to the same item are considered to be a single bibliographical item.

Author’s occupation. The author’s occupation is determined by his or her current principal work or activity. Five attributes are used for this variable: instructor/librarian, minister/church planter missionary, student, conference worker, and other.

Author’s geographical location. The author’s geographical location is determined by his or her place of residence at the time of writing and not necessarily by the place of permanent residence.

Author’s denomination. An author’s denomination is determined by the denomination of the church of which the author is a member. This variable is divided into three attributes: Mennonite Brethren, other Mennonite, and other.

Author’s school. The author’s school is determined by the institution of employment at the time the article was written. The attributes used for this variable are: Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Columbia Bible College, Bethany Bible Institute, Winkler Bible Institute, Fresno Pacific College, Tabor College, Institute Biblique Laval, other Mennonite, other Christian, and secular university. {86}

Subject and format. The subject of an article refers to an article’s principal subject matter. The indexes published in Direction were consulted, but not always adhered to. The format of an article refers to the general structure of an article. These include: article, paper from conference, sermon, poetry, bibliography/literature review, story, and other.


A computerized database file was created for this bibliometric study, consisting of article number (all articles were numbered in consecutive order), volume number, year, length, existence of citations, number of unique citations, author’s name, occupation, gender, geographical area, denomination, and school, editor, subject, and format. The data was then analyzed using SPSSx.

Data was collected on all authors, including those who were the second and third authors of an article (which involved 15 of the articles). However, the data concerning the second and third authors are not included in this study.


The remainder of this article will highlight a few of the findings of this bibliometric study.

Length. Between 1972-91 there were 411 articles published in Direction; 40.4% were 1-5 pages, 40.1% were 6-10 pages, 13.9% were 11-15 pages, 3.4% were 16-20, and 2.2% were over 20 pages.

Citations. Citations would have been appropriate in 366 of the 411 articles published in Direction. Of these 366 articles, 208 (56.7%) had citations, while 158 (38.4%) did not.

Authors. Of the 372 articles assigned subject terms and identified by author, Delbert Wiens wrote 12 (3.2%), Elmer Martens wrote 8 (2.2%), David Ewert wrote 8 (2.2%), John E. Toews wrote 9 (2.4%), Devon Wiens wrote 7 (1.9%), and Abe Dueck, Herbert Giesbrecht and Howard Loewen each wrote 6 (l.6%). These figures illustrate the influence these men have had in the academic circles of the Mennonite Brethren Church.

It is of interest to note how certain families have contributed to the articles in Direction. J. B. Toews, his sons John E. {87} and Paul, and a cousin, John A., have contributed 19 articles (5.1%) out of the 372 articles assigned subject terms and identified by author, reflecting the influence this family has had in the Mennonite Brethren Church.

Author’s occupation. In terms of the occupations of the authors, 242 (60.8%) of the articles were written by instructors, 48 (12.1%) were written by ministers, 33 (8.3%) were written by students, 25 (6.3%) were written by conference workers, and 50 (12.6%) were written by authors classified in the “other” category.

Author’s occupation and editor. When Delbert Wiens was editor, 81% of the articles were written by instructors and 1.7% were written by ministers. During Martens’ first editorship, 67.6% of the articles were written by instructors and 8.1% were written by ministers. Under Allen Guenther, 49.3% were written by instructors and 14.2% were written by ministers, while during Martens’ second editorship, 52.9% were written by instructors and 24.3% were written by ministers.

These figures could mean one of two things: 1) During the first years of Direction’s existence, instructors were the most qualified to address theological and biblical issues, while ministers, due to their relatively lower level of education, were not as qualified. As seminary education became more popular in the Mennonite Brethren Church, more ministers graduated with the skills needed to address theological and biblical issues in an academic manner; 2) Wiens may have seen instructors as those most capable of addressing theological and biblical issues in the church, and not ministers, while Guenther and Martens, especially during the latter’s second editorship, recognized the ability of, and the need for ministers to have a more prominent role in addressing the issues of the day.

Author’s gender. Of the 411 articles published in Direction, the author’s gender of 405 could be determined. Of these 405, 365 (90.1%) were written by men, and 40 (9.9%) were written by women.

Author’s gender and year. Of the articles written by women, 12.5% were written in 1972-76, 30% were in 1977-81, 27.5% in 1982-86, and 30% in 1987-89. Of the total number of articles written by men and women, 6.3% were by women in 1972-76, 9.7% were by women in 1977-81, 12.5% were by women in 1982-86, and 10.5% were by women in 1987-91. The {88} percentages show that a higher percentage of articles are being written by women as the years progress, although this trend has decreased in recent years.

Geographical location of author. The geographical location of the author could be determined for 388 of the articles in Direction. Of these 388, the top five geographical locations were: California, 43.8%; Manitoba, 22.2%; Kansas, 9.3%; British Columbia, 6.7%, and Ontario, 4.9%. All other geographical locations comprised roughly 13% of the total. Authors living in North America comprised 95.8% of the total, 36.9% lived in Canada, and 58.9% lived in the U.S.

Geographical location of author and year. Authors from Manitoba wrote 38.7% of the total number of articles in 1972-76, 27.5% in 1977-81, 10.6% in 1982-86, and 13.9% in 1987-91. These percentages indicate that the percentage of articles written by authors from Manitoba has decreased in comparison to articles by authors from other geographical locations. The percentage of articles written by authors from Kansas has steadily decreased over the years, from 12% in 1972-76 to 3.7% in 1987-91. On the other hand, the percentage of articles written by authors from California has steadily increased, from 37.3% in 1972-76 to 52.8% in 1987-91. These percentages are probably closely tied to the percentages for the institution of the author and year, which will be dealt with later in the article, since most of the authors that write articles for Direction are instructors.

Denomination. The denomination of the authors was determined for 391 of the 411 articles. Errors are possible, since assumptions were made for some of the authors. Of the 391 articles, 381 (97.4%) were written by Mennonite Brethren, 3 (0.8%) were written by other Mennonites, and 7 (1.8%) were written by others.

Institution. Of the 411 articles, 244 (59.5%) were written by people employed at an educational institution. The vast majority of those were instructors. Of these 244, 64 (26.2%) were written by employees of Mennonite Brethren Bible College , 62 (25.4%) by employees of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary [MBBS], 43 (17.6%) by employees of Fresno Pacific College [FPC], 20 (8.2%) by employees of Tabor College [TC], and 22 (9%) by employees of secular universities.

Instructors from MBBC, MBBS, TC and FPC have written 46% of the 411 articles published in Direction. Furthermore {89}, instructors from these four institutions have written 77.5% of the 244 articles written by instructors or employees of educational institutions. Instructors from non-Mennonite Brethren schools have written 17.2% of the total written by instructors, and 10.2% of the overall total. Instructors from Columbia Bible College [CBC], Bethany Bible Institute, Winkler Bible Institute and Laval wrote only 3.2% of the 411 articles. These numbers reflect the view of the editors of Direction that it is primarily the faculty of Mennonite Brethren schools that shall be the contributors of articles.

Institution and year. In looking at the number of articles written by instructors, the percentage of articles written by authors from MBBC decreased, with 38.7% in 1972-76, 30.5% in 1977-81, 15% in 1982-86, and 15% in 1987-91. The percentage of articles written by authors from FPC also decreased, from 21% in 1972-76 to 15% in 1987-91. The percentage of articles written by authors from MBBS steadily increased, with 14.5% in 1972.76, 22% in 1977-81, 32.5% in 1982-86, and 36.7% in 1987-91. The percentage of articles written by authors from secular universities peaked at 17.5% in 1982-86, representing the second highest percentage of articles written by instructors during this time period, and then dropped to 10% in 1987-91.

These percentages may indicate several things: 1) throughout the years, the editors may have increasingly felt that the most qualified instructors to write articles for Direction are the ones who teach at MBBS, the only graduate school operated by the Mennonite Brethren; 2) there could be an increasing lack of interest among instructors at MBBC and FPC in writing articles for Direction; 3) some of the instructors who once taught at MBBC and FPC and wrote articles for Direction while at these schools are now instructors at MBBS, showing a movement of qualified instructors from the undergraduate colleges to the seminary; 4) the fact that the second and third editors were employed at MBBS may have influenced their selection of authors—they would have known more about the abilities of seminary instructors at MBBS than about the abilities of college instructors at FPC and MBBC.

Number of authors. The number of authors of an article could be determined for 408 of the 411 articles. Of these 408, 393 (96.3%) were written by one author, 13 (3.2%) were written by two, and 2 (0.5%) were written by three. As was {90} noted earlier, data on the second and third authors are not included in this report.

Editor. Direction has had three editors over its history. Delbert Wiens was the first editor, serving from 1972 until 1975. Elmer Martens then served as editor from 1976 until 1981. Allen Guenther succeeded him during 1981, serving until the Spring issue of 1989. Elmer Martens then resumed the editorship with the Fall issue of 1989. Thus, the articles in Direction can be divided into four editorial groups. Of those articles assigned subject terms, the breakdown of articles by editor is as follows: Delbert Wiens, 12%; Elmer Martens’ first editorship, 34%; Allen Guenther, 35.6%; and Elmer Martens’ second editorship, 18.4%.

Subject. Of the 411 articles which appeared in Direction, 376 were assigned subject terms. The most popular subjects were: Mennonite Brethren Church and History, 13.8%; the Church, 8.2%; Ethics, 7.7%; Renewal/Church Growth, 5.3%; Marriage and Family, 5.1%; Anabaptist/Mennonite History and Theology, 4.5%; Leadership, 4.5%; Economics, 4.3%; Old Testament, 3.7%; Women in the Church, 3.7%; New Testament, 3.7%; Missions/Evangelism. 3.5%; Politics, State and Church, 3.5%; and Mennonite Brethren Higher Education, 3.2%.

Subject and editor. In a bibliometric study like this, it is interesting to note the association between subjects and editors. For example, the subject most written about is Mennonite Brethren Church and History, comprising 13.8% of all articles assigned subject terms in this study. Of the 52 articles on this subject, 30.8% were written during Elmer Martens’ first editorship, 30.8% were written while Allen Guenther was editor, 25.6% were written while Delbert Wiens was editor, and 17.3% were written during Martens’ second editorship. However, this subject represents 24.4% of all the articles written under Wiens’ editorship, while it represents only 11.9% of the articles written under the editorship of Guenther and 12.5% and 13% of the articles written during Martens’ first and second editorships.

A related subject, Anabaptist/Mennonite History and Theology, ranks sixth, comprising 4.5% of all articles assigned subject terms in this study. Of the 17 articles on this subject, 47.1% were written while Wiens was editor, 23.5% while Guenther was editor, and 17.6% and 11.8% during Martens’ two editorships. The subject represents 17.8% of all the articles {91} written under Wiens, and only 3%, 2.3% and 2.9% of the articles written under Guenther and Martens’ two terms. Thus, 42.2% of the articles written under Wiens dealt with either the Mennonite Brethren Church and History or Anabaptist/Mennonite History and Theology.

Marriage and Family ranks fifth, comprising 5.1% of all articles assigned subject terms in this study. Of the 19 articles on this topic, 78.9% were written during Martens’ second editorship.

Subject and year. During various time periods, certain subjects tended to dominate the articles appearing in Direction. For example, Anabaptist/Mennonite History and Theology was a popular topic in 1972-76, comprising 14.8% of all articles (that were assigned subject terms) published. Of the 17 articles written on this subject, 52.9% were written in 1972-76. In the past, the Mennonite Brethren Church and History has also been a popular subject, comprising 19.7%, 12.8%, 15.3% and 10.6% of the articles (that were assigned subject terms) published in 1972-76, 1977-81, 1982-86 and 1987-91.

It is probably correct to say that Direction mirrored what was happening in the larger Mennonite Brethren denomination. One example is the subject of Ethnicity. There were 9 articles written on this subject, and 88.9% of them were written in 1987-91, comprising 7.1% of all articles (that were assigned subject terms) published during these years. The publication of John Redekop’s A People Apart: Ethnicity and the Mennonite Brethren in 1987 sparked a lot of debate in the denomination about Mennonites and ethnicity, and it is apparent from the data that Direction was responding to this debate. Also, the popularity of the subject of Marriage and Family during this same time (comprising 14.2% of all articles that were assigned subject terms) published between 1987-91) perhaps reflects the emphasis placed on this subject by the seminary in Fresno.

Subject and author’s occupation. The total number of articles assigned subject terms and written by authors where their occupation was known is 365. Instructors make up a majority of those writing on most subjects, although there were some exceptions. For example, of the 16 articles written on the topic of Economics, 50% were from the “other” category, 31.3% were instructors, 12.5% were conference workers, and 6.3% were ministers. Thus, while the editors usually chose {92} instructors to write about the various biblical and theological topics discussed in Direction, they did go to non-instructors for some topics. Perhaps this is so because people from outside the classroom are judged to be better informed than instructors on some topics.

Subject and author’s gender. Which subject do women write about in Direction? Of the 29 articles that women wrote that had subject terms assigned to them, 9 (31%) dealt with Women in the Church, 3 (10.3%) dealt with the Church, and 7 (24.1%) dealt with Marriage and the Family.

It is of interest to note the high percentage associated with Women and the Church. This could mean one of several things: 1) Women may be seen as the most qualified to write about this issue because they are women. 2) Women may not be qualified to write about other issues in the church. 3) It may be one of the few subjects that women are interested in. 4) Women may be qualified to write on a variety of subjects, but Women in the Church may be one of the few subjects women are actually permitted to write about.

Format. The 411 articles can be divided into the following categories: article, 71.3%; conference paper, 15.8%; sermon, 5.1%; poetry, 3.2%; bibliography/literature review, 4.1%; story, 0.2%; and other, 0.2%.

Format and author’s occupation. Some interesting observations were made when looking at the relationship between format and author’s occupation. Instructors produced 60.8% of the articles, 62.5% of the conference papers, and 90.5% of the sermons. On the other hand, ministers produced 11.7% of the articles, 14.1% of the conference papers, and only 9.5% of the sermons. Thus, while it is ministers who prepare sermons regularly every week, it is the instructors who are asked to write sermons for Direction.

Format and author’s gender. Finally, when the format of articles was broken down by the gender of the authors, the figures were quite interesting. Men wrote 92.4% of the articles, 95.4% of the conference papers, 100% of the sermons, and 76.5% of the bibliographies/literature reviews. However, women wrote 83.3% of the poetry published in Direction.

Poetry represented 25% of the total female output and only 0.5% of the total male output. This could mean several things: 1) Women are better poets than men in the Mennonite Brethren Church; 2) Women in the Mennonite Brethren {93} Church have been encouraged to express themselves through poetry, while men have not; 3) Men are not offended or threatened by women who write poetry, but they are offended or threatened by women who write sermons, so men limit women to writing poetry.


By means of a bibliometric study, this paper has addressed the question of what quantitative and evaluative statements can be made about Direction. One stands to gain insights about trends in biblical and theological scholarship in the Mennonite Brethren Church by investigating and describing the characteristics of Direction.


  1. A. Pritchard, “Statistical Bibliography or Bibliometrics?” Journal of Documentation 25 (1969): 348-9; quoted in David Nicholas and Maureen Ritchie, Literature and Bibliometrics. London: Clive Bingley, 1978, 9.
  2. Nicholas and Ritchie, Literature and Bibliometrics, 9.
  3. Ibid., 10.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Alvin M. Schrader, “A Bibliometric Study of the JEL, 1960-1984,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 25 (Spring 1985): 283.
  6. Ibid., 284.
Richard D. Thiessen is Librarian at Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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