With the increasing shortage energy, the exploration and utilization of shale gas (SG) have greatly changed the world’s natural gas supply pattern. In this study, based on a bibliometric review of the publications related to SG, by analyzing the co-word networks during the past years, we provide comprehensive analyses on the underlying domain evolution of shale gas research (SGR). Firstly, we visualize the topical development of SGR. We not only identify the key topics at each stage but also reveal their underlying dependence and evolutionary trends. The directions of SGR in the future are implied. Secondly, we find the co-word network has small-world and scale-free characteristics, which are the important mechanisms of driving the evolution of SGR’s domain. Thirdly, we analyze China’s SGR. We find the co-word network in China’s SGR has not yet emerged obvious differentiation. Nevertheless, it has a similar self-organized evolution process with the co-word network of international SGR. Our above results can provide references for the future SGR of scholars, optimization or control of the domain and the strategy/policy of countries or globalization.
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