Bibliometrics for researchers

An introduction to bibliometrics for researchers by Vicky Wallace, Subject Advisor, Library Services

Have you ever heard the term bibliometrics?  Bibliometrics can be described as a means of measuring the impact of a given publication by looking at the number of times subsequent authors have cited that publication.

How to find an author’s h-index.

Bibliometrics can be applied at various levels, including:

  • Author level (e.g. the h-index)
  • Article level (e.g. altmetrics)
  • Journal level (e.g. impact factor)

There are philosophical questions about the merits of using a citation as a measure of impact.  Ask yourself the question of why you cite papers in your work, is it for positive or negative reasons, are you building on a researchers work, criticising it, or acknowledging their contribution to a field?  Also, citation patterns vary across disciplines, with some areas having numerous co-authors and citing prolifically, and other areas citing fewer papers and having more sole authors.  Nevertheless, bibliometrics are often used as a quantitative measure to determine the impact of researchers, research groups, departments and institutions, although this is often tempered by using peer review alongside them to bring in a qualitative element.

As with all statistical methods, bibliometrics are open to gaming, and a single figure can be misleading.  When using bibliometrics it is important that you understand:

  • where the data comes from to generate the bibliometric
  • which bibliometric is the most appropriate for your needs
  • how the measure is calculated
  • how to use bibliometrics responsibly

 So how can bibliometrics be useful for researchers?

Well, there are several ways that you can use bibliometrics to raise your research profile:

  • Deciding where to publish and how to promote your paper:
    • You might like to find out what the top journals in your field are, as this could inform where you aim to publish.
    • Similarly, have you used social media or other platforms to promote your research? Altmetrics can help you to identify the most effective channels for promoting your research to your audience.
  • Determining the impact of a paper:
    • If you have published already, you could find out whether your article is performing above average for citations in your research area.
    • Similarly, you could find out how many times your paper has been cited, although you need to be aware that it normally takes around 2-3 years for the bulk of your citations to filter into the literature, due to the time it takes for journal articles to make it through the editing, acceptance and publication process.
  • Building evidence for promotion/grant applications:
    • Understanding the impact that your research publication is having within your academic discipline, and beyond, and being able to quantify it and evidence it, can be useful when building a case for promotion, or for funding applications.

Find out more

Have you used journal-level bibliometrics to assess the quality of a journal?  How are you monitoring the citations on your own (or your research group’s) publications?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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