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Journal & Citation Metrics: Journal Metrics

Citation Metrics: the Basics

Citations are the "coin of the realm" for researchers who want to communicate the scholarly impact of their work.

Here are some things to keep in mind when using citations to document the impact of your research (or when evaluating others' work based on citation counts):

  • High citation counts DO NOT represent the quality of a paperInstead, the counts document the overall scholarly attention that research has received.
  • Scholars cite each other for many different reasons (to acknowledge or negate prior work in a subject area, to reference specific methods or findings, and so on). What was said about your paper is just as (if not more) important as the number of citations you've received.
  • Citation practices differ from field to field. In some fields, researchers cite each other often; in other fields, researchers will be lucky to receive more than a handful of citations over the length of their career. 
  • Contextualizing citation counts is the best way to ensure that your work is appropriately compared to others' workSome ways to contextualize citation counts for your articles include: comparing your articles' citation counts to other articles published in the same journal in the same year; and comparing them to average disciplinary citation counts as calculated by tools like Impactstory or Thomson Reuters' Essential Science Indicators database.
  • Citations take months or years to accumulateIn situations where you need to know the impact of your recently published work, citations unfortunately are not very useful.
  • Citations cannot capture the influence that research has outside of academia. Your research may be useful to patient advocates, practitioners, policy makers, the private sector, and other stakeholders outside of the Ivory Tower. Citations cannot capture the influence your work has had among those audiences.

Using Library Databases to Locate High-Impact Journals

Scholars may publish journal articles that assess and evaluate the top-ranked journals in their field.  Search for these articles through EBSCOhost's Academic Search Complete using keywords (such as "top journals" or "highly ranked journals") or subject headings (such as "IMPACT factor (Citation analysis)" or "BIBLIOMETRICS") and the field. For example, you could search in Academic Search Premier using the terms "top ranked journals" and "economics". You can also select a narrower subject specific database (find these on our Subject Guides).  Alternatively search across a number of different databases by using Search@UW or for full-text articles using the Google Scholar.

Publishers' Impact Metrics

Often, publishers use their own system for measuring journal impact. Each major publisher uses a mix of standard and homegrown measurement techniques.


Journal Metrics

Journal metrics identify popular journals in a given research field.  This identification may be most useful to scholars who are compiling a current reading list or who are locating journals in which to submit future publications.

Journal Impact Factor

The journal impact factor (JIF) is a proprietary metric compiled annually by Thomson Reuters. It's a journal-level measure that reports the average number of citations an article published in a particular journal can expect to receive.

The JIF is calculated by dividing X (the total number of citations received by any articles published in a two-year period in a particular journal) by (the total number of articles published in that journal during the same two-year period).

The JIF was originally created to help librarians determine the usefulness of particular journals when evaluating them for collection development purposes. But it's been misused in recent years by researchers and university administrators who use the measure as a stand-in for the quality of a journal (wrongly assuming that a higher JIF signals more quality). 

Scholarly communication has changed much since the 1950s. Newer measures of impact are described on the altmetrics/other metrics tab and provide alternate ways to evaluate the scholarly impact of journal articles.

Freely Available Journal Metrics Tools



This is another free metric for measuring journal impact derived from Elsevier's Scopus resource UWL does not have a subscription to Scopus). The calculation of CiteScore for the "x" year is based on the number of citations received by a journal in that year for the documents published in the journal in the past three years, divided by the documents indexed in Scopus published in those three years.CiteScore.