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GS 712.11 Sociology Literature Review: Research Impact

Scholarly Metrics & Online Profile

Scholarly metrics are quantitative indicators of the impact or attention of scholarly output. There are metrics for journals (e.g., the famous Impact Factor), single publications like an article or book (e.g., citation count), or authors (e.g., h-index).

Scholarly metrics may inform important decisions, such as promotions or awards by granting agencies, and may be used in library collections decisions.

Metrics are reported for Duke faculty in several locations, including their Elements/Scholars@Duke profiles. Web of Science and Scopus are two tools that also report metrics for articles or authors and are accessible by anyone in the Duke community.

In addition to single metrics, there is increasing interest among researchers in managing their online presence or curating their digital identity. This means not only promoting their research, but increasing their visibility as the person behind the research, often using social media.

Research Impact

Loosely defined as how broadly scholarly research is being read, discussed, and used both inside and outside of the academy.

Tools for Assessing Research Impact

  1. Impact factor is a measurement of the citation rate of a particular journal. Individuals do not have an impact factor, publications do. Impact factor takes into account citations of the previous two years of published articles. Because citation practices vary widely between disciplines, impact factors also vary. While the number could differ depending on the tool used to measure the number of citations, Thomson Reuter’s Journal Citation Reports tool is generally the industry standard for measuring impact factor.


  1. The Eigenfactor is similar to impact factor in that it attempts to measure the “total importance” of a journal. It considers citations five years from the year of publication (more than the two of JCR’s impact factor). It also weighs citations from more influential journals higher than those from less influential journals. The eigenfactors of all the journals in the eigenfactor index are scaled to sum to 100, so that a journal with a 1.00 eigenfactor has 1% of the “total importance” of all the journals in the index.


  1. The h-index is a measurement of an individual researcher’s impact. The index takes into consideration the number of citations of a researcher’s publications (i.e. a researchers with an index of h has published h papers which have been cited h at least times). The h-index was proposed in 2005 by physicist Jorge Hirsch and is alternately called the “Hirsch index” or “Hirsch number.” A number of services calculate h-index and the number can vary depending on the service used.

The Duke Medical Center Library has a comprehensive guide to individual author impact available here.

4. Article-level metrics: Instead of attempting to measure journals or individuals, article-level measure the impact of individual articles. PLoS pioneered this approach, and they measure usage (page views, downloads), citations (using Scopus, Web of Science, PMC, etc. data), and social networking mentions.