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Research Impact and Scholarly Metrics

Understanding and using bibliometrics to evaluate journals and impact of scholarly work.


Article-level metrics are citation metrics which measure the usage and impact of individual scholarly works. They help quantify how many times a work has been cited (bibliometrics) or viewed/downloaded/shared (altmetrics). This information is important to scholars for self assessment as well as academic departments and administrators reviewing faculty for tenure.

Citation Counts

The main bibliometric used to gauge article impact is citation counting, which simply gives a total count for the number of times an article has been cited. Citation counts will vary widely based on the source of the data. For example, the Web of Science database includes fewer citations in its index than Scopus, so the citation count provided for an article will likely be lower. Note: K's Library does NOT subscribe to Web of Science or Scopus.

Google Scholar has the most comprehensive coverage of the tools out there, but does include citations to lower quality sources that wouldn't be indexed in Web of Science or Scopus. You also won't find any of the field-weighted metrics you'll find in the subscription databases, only the raw citation count.


Alternative metrics, also known as altmetrics, are types of metrics used to measure research impact outside traditional metrics such as citation counts. Common altmetrics include usage stats like number of views and downloads, as well as social activity (shares, likes, mentions, etc.).

While altmetrics don't show if an article has actually been cited, they do provide numbers that are available more quickly than traditional metrics. Altmetrics are meant to complement, not replace, these traditional measures and can help give a more complete picture of the reach and impact of research that goes beyond citation counts.

Altmetric data is increasingly being embedded on database pages and publisher websites. The two most popular providers are Altmetric and PlumX Metrics.


Altmetric monitors online attention to scholarly articles. Online sources that are tracked include: Public policy documents, mainstream media, online reference managers (Mendeley), Wikipedia, Blogs, and Social Media (Facebok, Twitter). Read more on Almetric's Sources of Attention.

Altmetric aggregates data into a single Attention Score and visual "donut badge" shown here:

The free Altmetric bookmarklet browser plug-in allows you to pull up altmetric data on articles as you access them in your browser.

  • Note: Articles must have a DOI and Google Scholar friendly citation metadata for the Bookmarklet to retrieve their altmetric data.

PlumX Metrics

PlumX Metrics is a set of article-level altmetric data from Plum Analytics. You'll find PlumX data embedded on many databases and journal webpages. Metrics are presented as five categories: Citations, Usage, Captures, Mentions, and Social Media. Read more on PlumX Metrics categories.