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Citation Analysis & Journal Impact Factor: Citation Counts

Citation Counts

Citation counts measure the impact of a particular publicaton or an individual author by counting the number of times either has been cited in other works. This analysis of a particular author's work is one of the components used to evaluate the quality of that's individual's scholarly output and the impact he or she is having upon a particular discipline. Although such counting sounds relatively straightforward, it is complicated by the fact that there is no single citation analysis source that covers all publications and their cited references.

There are a number of ways to measure this:

  • Citation count -- The total number of times an author's work has been cited
  • Average citation rate -- the ratio of total citations to the number of works authored
  • The h-index -- A researcher's h-index, or Hirsch index, is determined by listing their publications in descending order of times cited and counting down the list to the last paper for which the number of times cited exceeds the number of papers counted. Rather than a measure of the average number of citations, which can be skewed by either a single highly-cited article or by new articles which have not yet been cited, the h-index  believed to provide a measurement that avoids over-emphasizing these extreme cases.

Citation analysis as a qualitative measurement should be used cautiously, for the following reasons:

  • Citation rates and practices vary widely between discipilnes.  Citation analysis of scholars in one field should not be compared to those in another.
  • Where a scholar publishes can have a great impact on the analysis if the tools used to count citations do not index the publications where a scholarly work is cited.  This is particularly true for those that publish in international journals, smaller regional or local publications, or in non-journal sources such as books.
  • Citation rates can be influenced by other practices such as self-citation.

The two primary sources for citation information are:

Web of Science vs. Google Scholar: Which to Use?

When looking for citation counts, is it better to use Web of Science or Google Scholar?

SInce each has its advantages and disadvantages, it's really a good idea to search both and compare the results. And you may also want to consult discipline-specific databases that offer citation data.

Anne-Wil Harzig, Professor of International Management at the University of Melbourne and creator of Publish or Perish software, offers a good analysis of the relative disadvantages of both Web of Science and Google Scholar in her article, Google Scholar: A New Data Source for Citation Analysis.