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Making Use of Bibliometrics: Article-level metrics

A guide to bibliometrics and other ways to measure the impact of published research

“The best decisions are taken by combining robust statistics with sensitivity to the aim and nature of the research that is evaluated.”

Hicks, D., Wouters, P., Waltman, L. et al. Bibliometrics: The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics (2015).

For access to sources of bibliometric data, start from What, and Why?

Finding the Citation Count for a Known Article

Google Scholar, Web of Science and Scopus all display citation counts for articles in search results, adjacent to the bibliographic details.  Simply search for the article title and/or author name to locate the item of interest.

screenshot of a Google Scholar record for a journal article which has been cited 95 times


The citation count is obtained by analysing the 'references' section from every other record in the same database.  So a citation count for an article will not necessarily be the same in all three sources, and it will increase over time as new citing articles are published.  Scopus and Web of Science enable users to create a Citation Alert, to receive an email notification when the citation count rises.

In all three databases, the Cited By heading is a hyperlink to the records of the citing articles.  You will also see a link to Related articles, which share citing articles with the original.  (Google Scholar's algorithm for Related Articles is not public, and may take account of other factors).

Scopus records include further metrics derived from the citation count:

  • Percentile ranking:  if all articles on this topic were ranked by citation count, approximately where would this article appear in the ranking?
  • Field Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI): how does this article's citation count compare to the average for the discipline, also taking into account article type and year of publication?  A score greater than 1.00 means the article has been cited more than the average.
  • Citation count Excluding Self-Citations: intended to account for the possibility that the author(s) may have boosted their citation count by referencing their own work in subsequent articles.

Finding Highly-Cited Papers

When you carry out a keyword search in Web of Science or Scopus, you can sort your results by the number of Times Cited. Google Scholar does not currently offer citation score as a sort option or filter.

Web of Science search results can be filtered down to Highly Cited Papers only: the top 1% in the discipline, taking account of date of publication.

screenshot from Web of Science showing a record with the 'highly cited' icon (a trophy)

Other Article-Level Metrics

Many publishers' websites record the number of Views and/or Downloads for the journal articles and other works that they host.  These data may be useful to the author or the publisher as evidence of the size of their audience.  Both Scopus and Web of Science provide a Usage Count for article records in their databases: the number of times a person carrying out a search has clicked on a record in their results to read the full text.

Be cautious about interpreting these metrics as a robust measure of interest in the article, without any contextual information about whether readers have actually engaged with the content.

See Alternative Metrics for measures of interest in a publication which are derived from social media.