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Scholarly Communication

An informational guide to scholarly communication issues and challenges, including open access, author rights, copyright and institutional repositories

Citation-Based Metrics

Journal Rankings Impact Factor

Impact factor is a metric used to evaluate the importance of a journal to its discipline or field. It measures how often scholars and researchers have cited articles in a particular journal in the most recent two years and is calculated by dividing the number times articles were cited by the total number of articles published in that same journal for the time period. Journal impact factor only applies to a journal or groups of journals and cannot be used to measure the impact of individual articles or researchers and should only be used to compare journals in the same subject area. 

Citation Analysis

You may be interested in seeing how many times a particular work has been cited by other researchers. Citation analysis is a quantifiable way to measure the academic output and impact of an article or an author based on the number of times these works or authors have been cited by others. There are several different tools that can be used to explore citation metrics: 

Limitations of Citation-Based Metrics

Traditional citation-based metrics are one way to measure the impact of your work. But it's not the only way. Here are some limitations of citation-based metrics:

  • Citations take a long time to accumulate, so it may be harder to tell what the impact of research is in the short term
  • More relevant for some disciplines than others (STEM)
  • Ciations are only one way to measure impact and do not account for other ways that people are engaging with research


Altmetrics logo

Altmetrics, or alternative metrics, are measures of social and public impact of research that complement traditional citation-based measures. Altmetrics aim to measure web and social media-based scholarly interactions. Examples of types of altmetrics include: 

  • Usage: How many times was your work downloaded, viewed or clicked on?
  • Captures: How many times has your work been bookmarked or favorited? 
  • Mentions: How many times was your work mentioned on blogs, Wikipedia, or news sites? 
  • Social Media: How many times was your work shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? 

Why use altmetrics? 

  • Provide a way to assess the immediate impact of your research.
  • Help create a broader picture of the impact of your research from a variety of sources.
  • Can measure the impact of other types of scholarship besides articles and books.
  • Can offer contextual information about who is engaging with your research. 

What are the limitations of altmetrics?

  • They measure the attention that research is receiving (popularity), but they don't necessarily measure quality.
  • Altmetrics are still a relatively new trend in measuring impact, and as such, there are a variety of different tools, none of which comprehensively choose and gather from the same sources of data.

Altmetrics Tools

Altmetrics Readings