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My Thesis

This is the central core of authors referenced in the 2385 articles that make-up the dataset used in the thesis study.

This is the central core of the Author Co-citation Analysis network, 1994-2011.  These are authors referenced in the 2385 articles that make-up the dataset used in the thesis study.

The pages in this section provide an overview of my recent thesis, accepted on December 23, 2012. Below is an overview of the purpose and primary significance of the study.  Other pages in the section will provide details on specific aspects of the research.

In my thesis, I apply a methodology, that to the best of my knowledge and research, has not been used before in Emergency Management (EM)/Emergency and Disaster Management (EDM): Knowledge Domain Visualization (KDViz) using co-citation analysis.

If I have to summarize my study in a few sentences, it is that the use of KDViz enables visualization of EDM’s body of knowledge, and that the structure of that body is, in fact,  the intellectual structure of the field.  It allows questions of whether EDM is an academic and/or professional discipline to be answered using empirical-based analysis of the field’s own literature, 1994-2011.  I believe that these co-citation network visualizations support a view that there is an academic discipline whose subject matter is study of disasters.  However, this discipline is not simply EM, or EDM, but what I call Disaster Studies and Sciences (DSS).  Disaster Studies and Sciences involves far more numerous disciplinary inputs  than generally appreciated.  These inputs are not limited to sociology, geography, human ecology, public administration, and just a few other fields.  There are disciplinary inputs from across the earth sciences, social sciences, and health/medical/behavioral sciences,  increasingly linked to one another over time.

Although the results appear to support a conclusion that DSS is an academic discipline, and that occupational specialties within DSS, such as Emergency Management, do have the required academic body of knowledge, they lack evidence of a sufficient professional body of knowledge to justify recognition as a profession.  It should be recognized as an emerging profession, in need of greater linkage between the academic body of knowledge it is based upon, and a body of knowledge regarding its application necessary for professional practice.

A few or many may not agree with some/most/all of my conclusions, which is okay, as I see my thesis as a first step in what I hope will be a long path into a new avenue of inquiry, discussion, and research, one full of possibilities.



  1. Joe,
    Congratulations! I look forward to reviewing your thesis. At 66, I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up. The hard part is “growing up.”
    Keep in touch.

    Best regards,
    Dr. Tmo

    • Perhaps “growing up” is overrated. I have noticed that the more “responsible” I become the more my hair turns grey. Maybe it is just a coincidence…Thank you very much for all of your support Dr. Tom. You are one of the reasons AMU is a great place.

      • Joe,
        Thanks. I left AMU in July for a variety of reasons. Let me call your attention to “Emergency Management and Tactical Operations Response: Bridging the Gap” (2008) by Dr. Tom Phelan. I didn’t use the book for students at APUS, but other colleges have found it informative.
        Best regards,
        Dr. Tom

      • Must not be my day: That’s Phelan, T. (2008). Emergency Management and Tactical Response Operations: Bridging the Gap. Boston, MA: Elsevier.

        Best regards,
        Dr. Tom

      • Yes Dr. Tom, I wondered when you would ask about that…lol.

        Don’t feel bad if your book doesn’t appear in the network. There are a variety of reasons why any particular work doesn’t appear in the visualizations. Some of the reasons concern the limitations of databases like Web of Science and Scopus; others concern the practical matters of what upper limit is set on the number of nodes and links to show in a visualization; but most (in my opinion) reasons are related to the possible writing and citing patterns in EDM.

        The number of citations produced in EDM overall appear to be somewhat lower than other fields, and becomes much lower as a topic area becomes more specific, And I would venture to make a hypothesis that as you move from the academic side of EDM to the practitioner side, they are less likely to write journal articles, so they may be reading and using a book but not writing any articles citing it. Also, a book only appears in the network only if referenced in the dataset articles. Finally, very few textbooks and textbook-like works get cited in journal articles,

        This is why citation data must be used cautiously. Although high citation totals indicate a work is important to a field for some reason, you cannot make the opposite conclusion about infrequently cited works. There will be many books (for example textbooks or training materials, etc.) that are widely used or read but will rarely be cited. So try not to take it personally…the world still loves you Dr. Tom.

        All the best,


  2. Joseph, thanks for your detailed explanation. The book has only sold about 500 copies, so it’s not widely read.
    I’ve done little to promote it and have not included it in any APUS courses due to ethical considerations.
    I agree wholeheartedly with your comment that emergency management is NOT a profession. I refer to it as a field. I’m not certain about the term “academic discipline,” but will give it more thought.
    Best regards,
    Dr. Tom

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