Skip to Main Content

Impact Metrics and Scholarly Attribution

Discover your research impact, manage attribution of your research works, and search citations.

Research Help

Need more research help? We're here for you.

chat icon  Chat with us online

email icon  Email us your quick questions 

search icon Check out our FAQ 

person icon Connect with a subject specialist


We thank Julia Gelfand, Laine Thielstrom, and UCI Libraries for allowing us to adapt their Research Impacts LibGuide.

Introduction to Guide

This guide is designed to help faculty members, graduate students and librarians use and understand the citation analysis tools that describe, utilize, and support the current research landscape. 

Limitations on Impact Factors

As with any statistical measurement, there will always be limitations of the data. Things to keep in mind:

  • Errors on citations can lead to multiple entries and missed citations.
  • Author and institutional naming inconsistencies can lead to multiple entries and missed citations.
  • Different databases use different sources to generate data. Some databases are more comprehensive than others.
  • These tools are highly skewed toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) scholars.
  • Citations do not measure the number of times a work has been read or accessed.
  • Citations are not and should not be the only indicator of the importance of a work.

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), run by the American Society for Cell Biology, has partnered with editors and publishers to ask the scientific community to stop misusing impact factors as a metric to judge scientific output.

Determining Impact from Metrics

Diagram showing the words usage, peer-review, citations and alt-metrics each with arrows pointing upwards towards the word "Impact," which is in large letters across the top. Usage has the words downloads and views listed below it. Peer-review has the word expert opinion listed below it. Alt-metrics has the words storage, links, bookmarks and conversations listed below it.

Research impact is a measure of the significance and importance of academic work within a scholarly community.

Bibliometrics are the use of quantitative tools to study publications and other written material.

Citation metrics focus on the statistical patterns and measurements of citations.

Citation analysis can be used as a quantifiable measure of academic output and research impact, which can help inform decisions on publication, promotion, and tenure.

Altmetrics is increasingly becoming an alternative and important method of measuring the impact of scholarly output and allows for social media tracking by various indicators such as number of tweets, blog posts, likes, bookmarks, etc. and are more timely wider-ranging measures of how people—both other researchers and the general public have demonstrated interested in an individual's work and contributions.

Tools and methods of citation analysis are used to determine:

  • How many times a publication or author has been cited
  • Who is citing a publication or author
  • A journal's impact factor (relative importance in a field or discipline)
  • An author's published output ranking in a field or discipline.

Because of the limitations of each method, it is important to use multiple methods, sources, and tools to get a fuller and more complete analysis. Increasingly, the research community is studying how to assess the value of cooperation and collaboration among colleagues, scholars and scientists, with barriers being reduced and geography more global. New metrics and values will likely emerge through different sources, to complement and extend already existing methods and products.

Image credit: