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Research Impact, Citation Analysis & Altmetrics

This guide provides information on assessing the impact of research and HSL resources available for citation analysis.

The Impact Factor

Definition: The journal impact factor measures the importance of a journal by calculating the times it's articles are cited.

How Impact Factor is Calculated: The calculation is based on a two-year period and involves dividing the number of times articles were cited by the number of articles that are citable.

Be Aware

Experts stress that there are limitations in using impact factors to evaluate a scholar's work. There are many reasons cited for not relying on impact factor alone to evaluate the output of a particular individual. Among these are the following:

  • A single factor is not sufficient for evaluating of an author's work.
  • Journal values are meaningless unless compared within the same discipline. Impact factors vary among disciplines. (See Rankings by Percentile for more details)
  • The impact factor was originally devised to show the impact of a specific journal, not a specific scholar. The quality and impact of the author's work may extend beyond the impact of a particular journal.

According to Jim Testa, a researcher for ThomsonReuters Scientific, the most widespread misuse of the Impact Factor is to evaluate the work of an individual author (instead of a journal). "To say that because a researcher is publishing in a certain journal, he or she is more influential or deserves more credit is not necessarily true. There are many other variables to consider." (interview 6/26/2008 in Thomson Reuters blog entry)

Using Journal Citation Reports

For an overview on the topic, see the Introduction under the Journal Rankings tab.

To use Journal Citation Reports, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Web of Science. Choose the "Journal Citation Reports" option at the top of the page.
  2. Open Journal Citation Reports.
  3. Select either the Science or Social Sciences Edition and the Year.
  4. Select an option to search for a specific journal, or to view a group of journals.
  5. To search for a specific journal, you may search by Full or Abbreviated journal title, title word, or ISSN.
    1. Click on the journal title to see Journal Information, Impact Factor, Immediacy Index, Cited Half-Life, Cited Journal Graph,etc.
    2. To view where a journal is ranked in comparison to other journals in the same subject area, select "View Journal Summary List" by Subject Categories. You can also view related journals (see "Related Journals" button under the initial journal data.
  6. To search for a group of journals by subject category, publisher, or country/territory, choose one or more categories from the list. You can choose to view journal data sorted by journal title, total cites, impact factor, immediacy index, current articles, cited half life, 5-year impact factor, Eigenfactor score, ArticleInfluence Score.          

For more information about Journal Citation Reports, click on the Information for New Users located in the upper right hand corner of the database opening page, or view the Journal Citation Reports tutorial created by Thomson ISI.

JCR Quick Reference Guide and Tutorials

Learn more about how to use Journal Citation Reports effectively with a "Quick Reference Guide" or a series of tutorials provided by the database producer.

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