IS research support



The impact of works: metrics / bibliometrics

Looking at the impact of journals and articles can benefit you:

  • article citation counts can help you to choose papers to support your research.
  • journal impact factors and rankings can help you decide where to publish or where to start your research into a topic.
  • article citations and journal rankings together can be used to track and show your own impact.

The measures explained below are sometimes called metrics or bibliometrics.

Use the Metrics Toolkit to find out how each metric is calculated, where you can find it, and how each should (and should not) be applied.

Assess articles - using citation counts

One way to assess an article is to look at the number of times it has been referred to, or cited, by other academics in their work.

Why citations are useful

You can use citation counts to:

  • discover the highly cited articles in your field - see which authors and articles are influential
  • assess the worth of an article before you use it
  • check for negative feedback:
    • has the research been questioned?
    • is it robust?
  • find a way in for your own research article:
    • what is being discussed?
    • is there a gap your article could fill?
  • see if anyone is using your research once you’ve published


How to find citations

Web of Science

  1. Log into Web of Science
  2. Enter keywords for your search or search by author.
  3. Check the right hand side of the results page: the citation counts for each article are shown here.
  4. Click the number next to 'Time Cited' to see all articles that cite the article you are looking at
  5. Look at the Usage Count: this shows shows how many people have viewed or downloaded the article, not just cited it in published academic work. This may show how useful it has been to practitioners or students.


  1. Log into Scopus
  2. Enter key words for your search or search by author
  3. Check the right hand side of the results page: the citation counts for each article are shown here.
  4. Select 'Sort on – Cited by' in the top right of the screen to order the results by the number of times publications are cited.
  5. Click the number in the 'Cited by' column to see all articles that cite the article you are looking at.
  6. Click into an article to see the full details. You can see more metrics, such as the Field Weighted Citation Impact that shows how well cited the article is compared with other articles in the same subject.
  7. Select the 'View all metrics' link for more information, such as mentions in the press and in social media. 

This video may be helpful: The Scopus Article Metrics module.


Assess journals - using impact factors

Journal rankings attempt to list journals in order of their importance by giving each journal title an impact factor.

Impact factors are based on the number of times the articles in the journal are cited in other academic publications.

There are two journal rankings produced by different publishers and based on different data.

Journal Citation Reports - from Thomson Reuters

This is based on Web of Science data.

It assigns each title a journal impact factor (JIF). This is calculated by the total number of citations received in one year to articles published in that title over the previous two years, divided by total number of citable items published in that journal over the same two years.

  1. Log into Journal Citation Reports (JCR)
  2. You can browse:
    • the whole citation report for Sciences or Social Sciences
    • or by journal titles in your subject to compare titles or search for a specific title.

Scimago Journal Rank - from Elsevier

This is based on Scopus data.

It assigns each journal a Scimago Journal Rank indicator (SJR). This is calculated by the average number of weighted citations received in one year by the articles published in the journal in the previous three years.

  1. Access Scimago Journal Rank (SJR)
  2. You can:
    • search for a specific journal title
    • or browse to compare titles in your subject area, region or country.


Use with caution!

You can use metrics to help evaluate the quality of a journal or article, but don’t rely on a single measure and do ask informed colleagues. Metrics should be used along with other assessments of quality such as peer review.

Limitations of metrics

  • Be careful with comparing across different disciplines because they have different publishing practices. Not all subjects publish research in journal articles, so citation counts and impact factors are less relevant. For example:
    • in Computer Science and Economics much research is made available as conference papers
    • in History and English most research is published in books
    • in the Social Sciences research is made available via discussion papers and report.
  • Disciplines may have different citation cultures. For example, in the Sciences authors cite each other a lot, but in Maths they don't. So an average impact factor for medical journals may be 3.17, but only 0.71 for maths journals.
  • Bibliometrics are only as good as the databases they use – no database is complete or 100% accurate
  • Not all journals are included in the journal rankings and so don't have impact factors. New journals (less than two years old) won't have impact factors. Practice-based journals may have lower impact factors because they are used by people working in a particular field rather than those writing research articles.
  • Don't assume that the very best articles only appear in the high impact journals. High ranking journals may contain low performing articles and vice versa.

There are a number of good sources of advice and guidance around the use of metrics, such as, and the recent Metric Tide report, commissioned by HEFCE.

Medway School of Pharmacy at the University of Kent has also signed up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which promotes guidelines for evaluating research outputs using metrics. The principal guideline of DORA is that metrics should not be the only means used to assess the quality of research.


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Last Updated: 30/01/2019