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Research Support: Measuring the Impact of Research

Library support and related information for staff and students undertaking research at the University of Strathclyde


There are many tools and systems available to quantitatively assess the value of your research - collectively known as bibliometrics. You can analyse various statistics at journal, author and article level to help gauge the impact research has had.

Remember that all these systems do not look at the context in which work has been discussed, so even research which is being mentioned in a negative light can produce what appears to be a high-value bibliometric result.

Journal Metrics

When reviewing the importance of a specific journal title there are a number of useful tools available:

  • Impact Factor: this statistic divides the total number of articles published in a two year period with the number of citations which qualifying articles have received in the following year to show an empirical value of that journal title. For example, Journal A has an impact factor of 3.15 for 2013 if the total number of published articles in 2011 and 2012 is 126 and the number of citations in 2013 is 40 (126 / 40). The Impact Factor of journals in each discipline can be compared through the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) which is part of the Web of Science package. For some titles JCR also contains additional citation values, such as the Journal Cited Half-Life.

  • Journal Analyzer: this tool within SCOPUS allows you to compare the content and performance of up to 10 journals at a time using various journal ranking metrics.
  • SCImago Journal & Country Rank (SJR): uses citation data from the SCOPUS database to provide both Journal and Country level indicators. It aims to normalise the variations in journal ranking often seen when comparing different disciplines, as well as weighting results to take into account the prestige of a title. A detailed analysis of the system can be found in this paper from the Journal of Informetrics.
  • Eigenfactor: uses citation data from the Web of Science and an algorithm based on Google's Page Ranking to calculate the approximate amount of time users spend looking at a specific journal title - thus showing its impact. It takes into account the width of readership of journal titles, as well as different citation patterns in different disciplines to help enable more direct comparisons of the scores of each title. A detailed explanation of the methods used can be found in this document.

Author and Article Metrics

As with the journal based metrics, there are a variety of ways to gauge the impact of authors and articles:

  • h-Index: this is a widely recognised method of assessing the overall impact an author has had during their career. The system was devised by Dr. J. E. Hirsch and explained in his 2005 paper  "An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output". The simplest way to calculate this is to look at the total number of citations attached to each publication attributed to an author, and compare this to the total number of publications.

    An author's h-index value is the number of papers which have received at least that same number of citations. For example, if Author A has published 5 papers, each of which have received 5 or more citations their h-index would be 5, however if 3 of those had received 20 citations, 1 had received 4 citations, and the final paper had not been cited at all their h-index would be 4. A comparison of h-index values can be seen in the following table:

    Paper number Author A # of Citations Author B # of Citations Author C # of Citations
    1 25 56 127
    2 23 8 98
    3 15 8 2
    4 8 7 2
    5 6 7 -
    6 2 6 -
    7 2 1 -
    8 1 0 -
    h-index 5 6 2

    h-Index values can be found through viewing citation reports in resources such as Web of Science and SCOPUS, or via the Metrics options in Google Scholar, or simply by finding the citations of all an author's publications and using the approach described above.

    The main criticism of the h-index is that while an author's h-index cannot drop over time, it fails to recognise high-impact authors who have not published a large number of articles, as your h-index can never exceed the total number of papers you have published.

  • Citation Indexing: as noted above, Library resources Web of Science and SCOPUS as well as Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search will allow you to see the total number of citations and author has received, and also how those citations are distributed amongst their published papers. This is a simple way to assess the impact of a specific author or paper. You can also do broad subject searches to determine which papers have had the most influence in a specific area of interest.

  • Altmetrics: in addition to the tools above, Altmetrics have been developed to compliment the more traditional scholarly metrics to help show the number of times an article has been discussed or shared via social media tools such as Twitter, Linked-In and Mendeley.

  • Strathprints: don't forget that the number of times an article has been accessed via the institutional repository (Strathprints) can help you to gauge the impact of your own research.

Creating an Author ID may help you to monitor your own impact, ORCID allows you to create a unique identified which can then be used in resources such as Web of Science, SCOPUS, and Linked-In. RKES can issue an ORCID for you, if you haven't already registered for one.

Book Metrics

While the methods for tracking the impact of book content are not as well established, Web of Science is adding books to its data-set via the development of the Book Citation Index, and Google Scholar includes book chapter citation counts in its results.

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