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This guide explains the measures used for academic papers

Key messages

  • Bibliometrics are a range of statistical measures that analyse publication data
  • One concept of ‘research impact’ is based on the premise the subsequent citation of research demonstrates quality
  • Bibliometric analysis can be applied to an author, article, journal, researcher group or an institution and should always be used responsibly
  • Databases (mostly subscription) aggregate citation data, apply formulas and present data
  • International university rankings incorporate bibliometrics as part of their measurements

Important considerations: database scope and limitations of bibliometrics

Central to using bibliometrics is understanding the scope (strengths, weaknesses, coverage and parameters) of the database and metrics being used. Importantly:

  • not all research outputs are indexed in bibliographic databases so there will always be data gaps in any result.
  • no database indexes all published works, and none cover all subject areas equally. Ideally, bibliometrics should be used alongside altmetrics and with an understanding of local experiences.

Although bibliometrics provide quantitative data that can be used to evaluate authors and institutions, the limitations of bibliometric analysis mean that

  • bibliometrics should never be used as the sole criteria for any evaluative purpose
  • bibliometric data should always be used in combination with other forms of evaluation, such as peer review, to make final decisions.

Databases for citation analysis

Database Description Help
Web of Science Contains descriptions of scholarly literature in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. The records contain cited references. Help
Scopus Major academic database, publisher and indexer with high entry criteria Help
SciVal Research performance assessment tool which uses data from Scopus. Provides more advanced metrics than those available in Scopus only and also allows you to benchmark individual researchers, groups of researchers and institutions based on a variety of different metrics.

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 A citation database, a research analytics suite, and streamlined article discovery and access. Includes publications, funding, patents, clinical trials, and policy documents linked through billions of connections and contextualised with metrics and Altmetrics.Does not use a curated index as seen with Scopus and WoS, instead, it updates content continuously, but there is no listing of included or excluded content coverage.

Google Scholar

Provides information about who is citing your publications and graphs of citations to your work over time.

It does not use a curated index as seen with Scopus and WoS, instead, it updates content continuously, but there is no listing of included or excluded content coverage.

Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic citation data may be analysed using the free tool Publish or perish