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Bibliometrics and Altmetrics: Measuring the Impact of Knowledge

This guide includes information on which of the databases contain citation measures that can be used to gage either an author, article or journal impact.

DEFINITION: Bibliometrics

Bibliometrics, or research impact, is the quantitative method of citation and content analysis for scholarly journals, books and researchers. The quantitative impact of a given publication is appraised by measuring the amount of times a certain work is cited by other resources.  By implication, you can measure the influence or 'impact' that a given work has on the rest of academic literature.  Bibliometrics should always be supplemented by qualitative peer review and a strong argument on impact in a personal statement.

Bibliometrics is based upon statistical sampling.  It is based upon certain assumptions.  These assumptions must be accounted for in any appraisal.

Limitations of bibliometrics

In this short video, Dr. Kevin Lalor, School of Social Sciences and Law, Dublin Institute of Technology, highlights some of the limitations of use of journal impact data in the social sciences and humanities and all the types of publication that are missed.

How to Find Citation Impact?

To tell your impact story, you need to find the citation count of your research papers through citation databases and alternative metrics tools. They are key instruments that allow a user to understand the impact of an individual published paper or of a researcher's body of work. Citation databases and altmetrics tools can be used for the following:

  • To show the impact an article has by showing the number of times it has been cited since it was published.
  • To compile the references that the author of the publication used.
  • To identify and read the most influential publications in a particular field.
  • To find related work and to track the development of a certain publication.
It is important to note that not all databases have a complete record of information regarding a certain published item. It would be wise to use multiple databases to fully utilize this feature.

White Paper

A Guide to Evaluating Research Performance with Citation Data

"If you can measure that of which you speak, and can express it by a number, you know something of your subject; but if you cannot measure it, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory."

~ William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

Pendlebury, D. A. (n.d.). Using Bibliometrics in Evaluating Research (White Paper). Research Department, Thomson Reuters, Philadelphia, PA USA.
Ten Rules in Using Publication and Citation AnalysIs
  1. Consider whether available data can address the question.
  2. Choose publication types, field definitions, and years of data.
  3. Decide on whole or fractional counting.
  4. Judge whether data require editing to remove “artifacts”.
  5. Compare like with like.
  6. Use relative measures, not just absolute counts.
  7. Obtain multiple measures.
  8. Recognize the skewed nature of citation data.
  9. Confirm that the data collected are relevant to the question.
  10. Ask whether the results are reasonable.

Books on Bibliometrics Research