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Citation Analysis & Journal Impact Factor: Citation Analysis

Introduction: Citation Analysis

Citation counts measure the impact of a particular publication 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.

Seminal & Highly Cited Research

Citation analysis can be measure in a number of ways:   

  • 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
  • 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 disciplines. 

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. Sources for citation information include: (Sage Navigator, Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar)

One indication that a particular source may be considered Seminal Research (i.e., of great importance or lasting influence; seminal works are sometimes also referred to as landmark works, classic works, or pivotal works) is that the article has been cited in many other publications. Highly Cited Research is a term used in Web of Science and refers to the top 1% of cited research per year in their database. Citation counts can include research that pointed to an article in support of their research but also counts times a research pointed to problems in an article's study or results.  Note though, that although all seminal articles will be highly cited, not all highly cited articles are necessarily seminal. In order for a work to be considered seminal, it should have led to: 

  • a much higher level of understanding in the field, or
  • a paradigm shift, or
  • an entirely new research area

In the field of management, for example, Michael E. Porter's 1996 article entitled "What is Strategy?" is considered a seminal work since it provided a clear and widely accepted definition of "strategy" and discounted many alternate views of what strategy is. The article has been cited thousands of times and has influenced business leaders around the world. (UMUC-HighlyCited)

Alkek Library also has a "Landmark Papers in..." series. Some disciplines also have awards for an author's contribution to the field, like Turing and SIGCOMM.

Examples of seminal works in education include work that came from major theorists like Vygotsky and Piaget.

Also, don't underestimate a search of a topic or discipline + seminal, seminal research, seminal works, landmark works, classic works, or pivotal works -- seminal works "special education"

Sage Navigator search results are based on Sage Major Works. A unique feature of Sage Navigator is the Chronology Tool. After you run your search and open an entry in the search results, click the Key Readings next to the pink Overview tab.

Web of Science (composed of: Arts & Humanities Citation Index 1975-Social Sciences Citation Index 1900-, and Science Citation Index 1899-) is the original citation research source. Web of Science extracts the citation information from the articles in more than 10,000 journals from almost every discipline. 

Be aware that a citation search in the Web of Science will only count citations from sources indexed by Web of Science and will not reference citations from books, dissertations or theses, patents, and technical reports not included in the database. This being the case, disciplines that publish heavily in the journal literature (such as the Sciences) are better represented here than those that do not (Business, for example). The Sciences are also represented much more in Web of Science than Arts & Humanities and the Social Sciences.


When you know an author who is especially relevant to a field of study, you may begin by searching their name on the Author line of the Cited Reference Search screen. To do a Cited Author, search the Last Name and First character of name followed by an asterisk * The recommended format shows in the search box to the right of the Cited Author pull-down.

David C. Caverly would be searched as: CAVERLY D*

Hyphenated names or names containing an apostrophe or a space should be searched both with and without the punctuation: 

Jovita Ross-Gordon would be searched as ROSS-GORDON J*

A Documents search in Web of Science allows for a Topic keyword search and search results will default to sort citations by Times Cited. Also, by creating a Web of Science Sign In account, you can set up Searches and Alerts.

Highly Cited Papers are papers published in the last 10 years that are receiving the most citations (top 1%) when compared to peer papers (same field, same publication year).

Google Scholar covers articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions and other scholarly literature from all broad areas of research, and may include pre-prints and web-published reports as well as published literature. Since Google Scholar indexes information from multiple sources (provided by publishers, included in databases such as PubMed, found on the public web, etc.), there is no comprehensive list of which publications it covers. 

To search for citing publications, start with a search for your researchers name. To get the best results that include various ways they may be cited, search all variations of their name within quotation marks, preceded by: author: in the Basic Search For example, to search for citations by Dr. Duane Knudson, search for author:"knudson duane" or author:"knudson d".  In the Advanced Search you can use the "Return articles authored by" field and just enter their name variations in quotation marks.

Results will be listed (generally) with the most-cited publications first.  To see the list of citing documents, click on 'Cited by [number]' below an entry to display all citing documents. Google Scholar will attempt to group all versions of a single work into one entry and combine the citations, but please note that it is not always able to do so, and you may see additional entries (with citations) to a work. See the examples in red boxes in the figure below. Clicking the "Cited by ###" link will lead to a list of articles that cited that article.

It's a good idea to set up Google Scholar to link to Unviersity Libraries so you can continue clicking through to articles as you're able to do in Web of Science and Scopus. Below, you'll notice a link on the right article citations, "Findit@xTxState" Top left corner: Settings, update Library Links - search "texas state university" and mark then save the option for "FindIt@Txstate".


Note: Sometimes, citation counts for an article in Google Scholar may be much higher than in databases like WoS and Scopus.