In an effort to inform the ongoing discussion about the purpose, purview, theoretical orientation, and viability of epidemiology, this paper considers the contemporary epistemological foundations of the discipline by analyzing article citations. Two principal questions are the following: 1) What research do American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) authors rely on to support, inform, and frame their investigations? and 2) to what extent do such authors use social scientific and statistical citations? The data used appear to be superior to those used in previous efforts because they contain complete citations for all articles published, along with complete within-article citations, for all AJE articles published from January 1981 to December 2002. The most frequent AJE citations are statistically oriented works. About 9% of citations are to AJE articles, 15% are to a larger set of eight epidemiologic journals, 15% are to a select set of eight medical journals, 3% are to (bio)statistics journals, and just 0.2% are to social science journals. Trend analysis reveals little change during the 22-year study period. The principal implication is that AJE authors are overlooking a vast literature that could inform their understanding of how exposures emerge and are maintained.
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