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Making Use of Bibliometrics: Author-level metrics

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

“Base assessment of individual researchers on a qualitative judgement of their portfolio.”

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?

Understanding Author-level Metrics

The total number of times an author has been cited is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of the impact of their research, without contextual information about their discipline, institution(s), career duration, and the financial and administrative support available to them.  However, data scientists have attempted to create bibliometric measures which facilitate comparisons between authors, or enable authors to monitor their own citation scores over time.

a visual representation of the h-index metricThe h-index metric is derived from an author's list of publications ranked in descending order by citation count.  An h-index of 5 means that the author's top 5 publications have each been cited at least 5 times. 

An author who has published 3 articles, only one of which has ever been cited, would have an h-index of 1, no matter how many times the article was cited.

An author's h-index is likely to increase over time, as they publish more articles.  The rate of increase is an indicator of growing attention to their work.

The h-index metric has been criticised because it does not reflect disciplinary differences in publishing and citation patterns, and doesn't adequately indicate the research strength of an early career researcher with a small number of publications which have been cited multiple times.  Wikipedia has a list of alternative author-level metrics designed to address these issues in different ways.

Finding the Citation Count for a Known Author

It can be interesting to compare the same author's citation data across several bibliographic databases, to see how the different sources indexed by these databases lead to different results.

Google Scholar enables authors to create a free User Profile in order to link all their records together. Search for an author's name to see whether they have created a profile, which will show their total number of citations over time, and other metrics including their current h-index.

Aug 2022 Google Scholar profile for Tara Brabazon, showing a total of 3323 citations and a h-index of 27


Web of Science: search for an author's name to view all the records in the database for publications they have contributed to.  The Citation Report shows the total number of times these publications have been cited, the author's current h-index based on these records, and a visual representation of their publishing history.

Aug 2022 screenshot of the Web of Science Citation Report for author Tara Brabazon, showing 147 citations of 21 documents and an h-index of 6.


Scopus: use the Authors search form to find an individual's Author Profile.  Scopus author profiles are generated automatically; authors can notify Scopus of any records missing from their profile or incorrectly assigned.  Read the Scopus Author Profile FAQs for more information.

screenshot of Tara Brabazon's author profile in Scopus (Aug 2022), showing 361 citations of 70 documents, and a h-index of 10


Dutch academic Anne-Wil Harzing has created the free Publish or Perish software (for MS Windows and MacOS) to enable authors to analyse their own citation history independent of any proprietary bibliographic database. Designed to help individual academics present their case for research impact to its best advantage, Publish or Perish retrieves records from Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science and several other sources to calculate a number of citation metrics.