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Measuring Your Research Impact: Citation and Altmetrics Tools

Overview of tools that can help you learn how your work is being received, used, and disseminated across scholarly platforms and social media networks.


This guide provides a brief introduction to tools that can help you measure the impact of your research by learning how your work is being received, used, and disseminated across scholarly platforms and social media networks. 

Search Savvy Seminar, April 2015

These are slides from the April 2015 University Libraries' Search Savvy Seminar, "Who's Talking About (and Citing) Me? Tracking Your Work using Databases, Google, Web of Knowledge, and Altmetrics Tools."

What's Wrong with the Journal Impact Factor?

Traditionally, scholarly impact has been measured through citations, specifically citations from journal articles to journal articles.

However, since citations to individual articles tend to be slow to accumulate, as a proxy, researchers, administrators, and funders have relied upon the aggregate impact of the journal in which an article appeared. This is measured by the Journal Impact Factor, now produced by Clarivate Analytics

Wikipedia defines the Journal Impact Factor as "a measure reflecting the average number of citations to recent articles published in the journal... In any given year, the impact factor of a journal is the average number of citations received per paper published in that journal during the two preceding years."

Unfortunately, the Journal Impact Factor is not an appropriate tool for assessing the impact of individual articles. Why?

  • Most citations accrued by a journal are to a small number of the journal's articles; the article under evaluation may or may not be highly cited.
  • Journal Impact Factors can be "gamed" by editorial policy, for example through requiring authors to cite other articles that appeared in the journal or by commissioning review articles which tend to receive a lot of citations.

For these reasons, a movement against the inappropriate use of Journal Impact Factors is gaining momentum. In 2013 the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) was released. It offered this general recommendation: "Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist's contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions."


What is the Alternative?

Fortunately, now that research and researchers have moved online and are no longer limited by the constraints of a print-based world, it is possible to measure the impact of scholarship in new ways. We can use article-level metrics to quantify how individual articles are being used and altmetrics tools to extend the measurement of impact beyond journal articles and beyond the academy.

About this guide...

This guide was created by Andrée Rathemacher, Julia Lovett, and Amanda Izenstark, 3/2014.

Updated 2/2014, 4/2015, and 1/2018.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.