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Measure research impact and quality: Citation analysis

What is citation analysis?

Citation analysis or bibliometrics examines the linkages between citing articles. This is used as a quantitative measure of impact, influence or quality. Citation analysis may be used for:
  • benchmarking and performance evaluation
  • applications for grants, jobs and academic promotion
Watch this short video to see how citations can be used.

What tools can I use?

WOS indexes:

  • Over 12,000 of the highest impact journals.
  • Predominantly sciences, including agricultural, biological, & environmental sciences, engineering, technology, applied science, medical & life sciences, and physical & chemical sciences.
  • Social sciences, arts and humanities to a lesser degree.
  • More than 150,000 conference proceedings.
  • Citation data primarily from 1970 onwards

Scopus indexes:

  • More than 22,000 titles.
  • Predominantly sciences, including physical sciences, health sciences and life sciences.
  • Higher proportion of social sciences and humanities journals, when compared to Web of Science.
  • Trade publications, book series, conference papers, patents and the deep web.
  • Complete coverage of Medline and selected CSA databases.
  • Citation data primarily from 1996 onwards.

It provides:

  • Provides an interface to search Google Scholar and allows for the exclusion of irrelevant or erroneous results.
  • Searches articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions etc.
  • Retrieves material from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.
  • Provides links to view all citing articles.

All data from Google Scholar needs to be verified for accuracy as Google Scholar often misidentifies or duplicates citations, or includes phantom records. This means the citation figures will be artificially inflated.

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The results of citation analyses will vary depending on the tool(s) you use and the thoroughness of the search. The discipline area and object of analyses may also limit the validity. 
Why do different databases retrieve different results?
The citation data will relate only to articles indexed within the database. Variation may occur because the databases:
  • Index different publication sources.
  • Cover different date ranges.
  • Include poor-quality data (duplicate records, misspelt citations etc).
What types of documents should be included in a report?
Generally citation analyses would include articles, notes and reviews.
  • These are document types that would be expected to receive citations.
  • Book reviews, editorials and meeting abstracts are normally excluded as they are not generally cited, they decrease the average cites per paper.
Can citation data be used to compare or benchmark articles?
It is important to ensure citation data is being used to compare like with like.
  • Different disciplines have markedly different citing behaviour and patterns.
  • Document age influences the number of citations it has, or is likely to receive.
  • When making comparisons, ensure the data has been normalised or adjusted to take into account differences between the disciplines.

The MyRI bibliometrics toolkit includes a series of videos outlining the uses and limitations of bibliometrics in evaluating research impact.

Online training

Further reading