Skip to Main Content

Library Services

  1. Library Services Home
  2. Resources
  3. Support
  4. About
  5. My Library

Research Impact

Purpose of this guide

Use this guide to:

  • Find out about bibliometrics.
  • Find out how to perform citation searching. 
  • Understand basic metrics such as impact factors.
  • Consider which research to use or how to improve your research impact.
  • Use databases such as Web of Science and Scopus.
  • Consider alternative metrics (Altmetrics).

What is bibliometrics?

Bibliometrics involves the measuring of influence or impact or citations in published literature.

Some definitions include:

  • The branch of library science concerned with the application of mathematical and statistical analysis to bibliography; the statistical analysis of books, articles, or other publications (Oxford English Dictionary).

  • Scientometrics is the branch of information science concerned with the application of bibliometrics to the study of the spread of scientific ideas; the bibliometric analysis of science (Oxford English Dictionary).

Bibliometric data are increasingly being used to assess the impact of research, to track and evaluate research activity. For example, the UK Higher Education Research Excellence Framework (REF) includes the use of bibliometric data. There are different methods  measuring impact.  Providing an open access copy of an article can increase its impact and downloads.

Bibliometrics can affect:

  • Funding
  • Journal collections.
  • Recruitment.
  • Prestige in the field.
  • Publishing.
  • Individual and institutional research reputation.

It can help to answer questions like:

  • Which journal should I publish in?
  • What are the top journals in Electrical engineering?
  • Is an article important?
  • Who is citing who?
  • Is my research relevant?

Measuring different types of impact

  • Article/book Impact: The impact of particular works, such as journal articles, conference proceedings, and books, can be measured by the number of times they are cited by other works.
  • Journal impact: The impact of particular academic journals can be measured by the number of times their articles are cited and where they are cited.
  • Researcher impact: The number of works a researcher has published and the number of times these works have been cited can be an indicator of the impact of an individual researcher
  • Institutional impact: The prestige of a department or area of research within an institution can be measured by the collective impact of its individual researchers compared to those at other institutions.


  • Journal coverage and bias.
  • Subject categorisation in the Journal Citation Reports (journals can be assigned to more than one category and be ranked differently according to category).
  • Disciplinary differences, it is not possible to make cross- disciplinary comparisons.
  • It is difficult to measure the academic quality of an article.
  • Potential manipulation of data eg. self citation, multiple authoring, strategic publishing.
  • There can be an English language bias.