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Measure research impact and quality: Citation analysis

Research quality and impact service

The Library provides information and advice on tools and methods to measure and maximise research impact and quality.
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Citation needed by (originally posted to Flickr as "Citation needed")  

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?

Web of Science
Web of Science is an online citation database. It is a Clarivate Analytics product that is part of the Web of Knowledge platform.


Officially named SciVerse Scopus, this online citation database is an Elsevier product. Scopus contains limited citations coverage on items prior to 1996.


Publish or Perish
Publish or Perish is a software program developed to analyse citations in Google Scholar. This may be useful for areas not well covered in Web of Science or Scopus.


More and more databases are now including citation tracking information, including:


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