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Measuring Scholarly Research Impact: Citation Analysis

Using Citations To Quantify Impact

One of the most common ways to quantify research output is to study the citations patterns of published articles.


  • Citation = Impact: if an article is cited, that typically indicates that the work represented in that article had some impact on others in the field.
  • Simple: there are numerous relatively simple calculations that can be performed using citation data
  • Objective: author evaluations are done using easily verified calculations - this greatly diminishes potential biases that may be associated with methods of evaluation that rely on human judgment.
  • Convenient: a number of resources exist to provide people with citation data as well as more advanced statistical analyses based on this data. 

Why not?

  • Reason for Citation: there are numerous reasons why an article may get cited that don't neccesarily indicate impact - e.g., gratuitous self-citation, work portrayed negatively in citing article, etc. 
  • Language Bias: articles written in a language other than that spoken by an article's author(s) may be ignored in the works cited - this can be a disadvantage if an author works in a field that is dominated by people who speak other languages.
  • Degree of Authorship: being listed as an 'author' on an article doesn't indicate the degree of responsibility for the content presented - there can be a great deal of variation in terms of the amount of credit that an 'author' is due.
  • Quality of Journal: work of similar quality but published in a more esteemed journal is more likely to be cited.
  • Type of Publication: often times review articles are cited more than original research articles even though they typically do not present new findings.

Himmelfarb Library Resources To Help With Citation Analysis

The Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library provides access to a number of resources to help you analyze citations: