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Measuring Your Impact: Journal Rankings, Citation Analysis, and Other Metrics

Tools and methods for measuring the impact of an individual or their scholarshipp

Journal analysis can be used for faculty and institution-level evaluation and for collection building and maintenance within the library. The premise behind citation analysis is that the more times an author or a journal appears in citations, the more influential and important these are for any given field. Until recently, the ISI Thomson Reuters products were the only tools for this type of analysis. That is no longer the case.

Ways to Measure Impact

There are various tools and methods upon which to measure the impact of an individual or their scholarship.

  • h-index attempts to measure the productivity and impact of a scholar or a scholarly journal
  • impact factor measures the frequency with which the average article in a journal is cited in a particular year (impact factors measure the impact of a journal, not the impact of individual articles)
  • citation analysis assesses the impact of an article by counting the number of times other authors mention it in their work
  • altmetrics is a quantitative measure of the quality and quantity of attention that a scholarly work is receiving through social media, citations, article downloads & other nontraditional measures

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Author Disambiguation Tools

There are several tools available to help you disambiguate yourself from other researchers and to compile and showcase your own work for the scholarly community at large.


No one tool captures the complete citation universe and all have weaknesses. Typical weaknesses of citation analysis tools include:

  • Results are difficult to interpret or the analysis is difficult to execute;
  • Heavy representation of some disciplines, but very light representation of others;
  • Important journals may be missing from the databases;
  • Citations appearing in books are excluded;
  • Citations may under-represent usage, as the number of citations versus number of readings can differ vastly;
  • Journal article-level citation counts are not the only or necessarily the most important measurement of the influence of academic work.

"The sole reliance on citation data provides at best an incomplete and often shallow understanding of research—an understanding that is valid only when reinforced by other judgments."  -- Joint Committee on Quantitative Assessment of Research Citation Statistics, International Mathematical Union (IMU) in cooperation with the International Council of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS).


Use More Than One Tool

Because each tool will produce different results, it is highly recommended that multiple approaches by used in determining citation counts per author, the importance of individual journals to a given field, and other measurements.

There is no one database that indexes all journals or all issues of journals:

  • In the sciences, Web of Science covers just 61% of titles indexed in the engineering index Compendex.
  • In the humanities, Scopus covers just 16% of titles indexed in the MLA Bibliography.  
  • In the social sciences, the Social Sciences Citation Index covers only 38% of titles indexed in EconLit

In addition to coverage gaps related to journals, every database also differs in terms of format inclusion. Some also include conference papers, working papers, books, book chapters, blogs, dissertations, and/or other works.

Author Identity

Search for All Possible Forms of an Author's Name

Few databases uniformly distinguish between authors with the same or similar names or pull together all publications by an author who has published with name variations.

If an author has not consistently published with the same name or exact spelling or format of her name, not all of their work will appear in a single search of Google Scholar, for example. Furthermore, an author's name may be listed differently within Google Scholar than in Web of Science, which in turn may both list the author differently than does Scopus. Some platforms use first names while others use first initials or first initials and a wildcard, some may include a middle name, etc. This issue is most typically referred to as author name disambiguation.

Most databases have provisions for authors to correct actual errors in how names are listed, but there is seldom an opportunity to provide a preferred form of name.