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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Understanding Impact: Impact Factor and Other Research Metrics

This LibGuide will help you identify standard research metrics that are used to measure scholarly impact. This guide also outlines methods and tools you can use to identify journals in your field for publishing.

Altmetrics

Altmetrics, or “alternative metrics,” refers to an emerging field of new methods for measuring the use and importance of scholarly articles, particularly in the sciences. As opposed to more traditional bibliometrics, such as Impact Factor, altmetrics provide article-level data and are based on new electronic sources of information, such as number of downloads and page views from a publisher, repository or online reference manager like Mendeley, or the amount of discussion generated in online venues such as Twitter or blogs.

Because altmetrics is a fairly new idea, there aren't many sources available for tracking them. Many sources ask their customers to pay for a subscription, either at an individual or organizational level.

Where Can I Find Altmetrics?

One of the best resources to use is ImpactStory. ImpactStory uses a variety of metrics to measure the impact of articles, slides, and software. You will need to create an account to get started.

  1. Enter your name and a unique web address for your site.
  2. The next step asks you to import your products from a variety of sources-- including YouTube, Google Scholar, PubMed, Twitter, Orcid, and a variety of others.
  3. After providing the correct information for that source, impact story will upload data and information. Once that process is done, you can get a general idea of the impact of your work.

Impact story will provide you with data about the number of shares, views, bookmarks, or tweets each item had. Hover over an item to get an explanation of why it was ranked.

ImpactStory article page


Another service, entitled Altmetric, offers similar information. The data that Altmetric provides, however, is much more advanced. It provides an Altmetric Attention Score, which serves as an indicator of the overall volume and nature of attention that research has received online. Altmetric also provides a bookmarklet and app that make altmetrics more mobile and convenient. Please note that Altmetric costs money to subscribe to and is based out of the UK.

Controversy

  • Doesn't always reflect quality
    • Because altmetrics relies on social media and news information, it can be easily skewed just because of popularity. For example, if a paper is published with a funny title, it might receive a ton of tweets. That doesn't mean that it's a quality or even noteworthy article.
  • Varying value
    • Altmetrics rank news coverage as more important than social media mentions or attention. This isn't always necessarily true. What if Obama is tweeting about your work but the local newspaper is summarizing your article? Sometimes social media can be more important than news attention.
  • Comparison issues
    • Impact factor provides an easy, quantitative way to compare articles. Altmetrics is a lot trickier. You can't easily compare one set of altmetrics to another, because impact means different things to different people. For example, one scholar might be more interested in their article downloads from Mendeley while another is only interested in how their research is published in the news.