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Research Impact Metrics: Citation Analysis

Defining Citation Analysis

What is it? 

Citation analysis is the study of the impact and assumed quality of an article, an author, or an institution based on the number of times works and/or authors have been cited by others. 

Why use it?

  • To find out how much impact a particular article has had by showing which authors based some work upon it or cited it as an example within their own papers. 
  • To find out more about a field or topic; i.e. by reading the papers that cite a seminal work in that area. 
  • To determine how much impact a particular author has had by looking at the number of times his/her work has been cited by others. 

Comparing Citation Analysis Sources

Here is a quick summary of what to expect from the three best-known citation analysis tools: Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar.


1. Web of Science

  • Subject Focus: 
    • Science Citation Index
    • Social Science Citation Index
    • Arts & Humanities Citation Index

  • Coverage: 
    • Over 12,000 peer-reviewed journals
    • Over 1,300 open access journals
    • 30,000 books with 10,000 added annually
    • Over 2.6 M chemical compounds and 1 M chemical reactions
    • 148,000 conference titles with 12,000 added annually

  • Time Span: 
    • Some journals from 1900

  • Updated:
    • Weekly

  • Strengths:
    • Excellent search limits by discipline
    • The most well-known and most used resource for citation analysis
    • Citation analysis goes back farther than Scopus

  • Weaknesses: 
    • Weaker Arts/Humanities & Social Sciences content than Scopus

2. Scopus

  • Subject Focus: 
    • Health Sciences
    • Physical Sciences
    • Social Sciences
    • Life Sciences

  • Coverage: 
    • Over 1,500 peer-reviewed journals
    • Over 360 trade publications
    • Over 4,200 open access journals
    • Over 120,000 book titles
    • Over 7.2 M conference papers
    • Over 27 M patent records

  • Time Span: 
    • Some journals from the 1820s

  • Updated:
    • Daily

  • Strengths:
    • Better open access journal coverage
    • Better foreign language coverage
    • Better Social Sciences & Arts/Humanities coverage

  • Weaknesses: 
    • Cannot search by date any earlier than 1960


3. Google Scholar 

  • Subject Focus: 
    • Theoretically, all disciplines

  • Coverage: 
    • Books from Google Books
    • Dissertations
    • Peer-reviewed articles
    • Patents
    • Case law
    • Trade journals
    • Slide presentations
    • Gray literature
    • Newsletters
    • Syllabi (if cited by scholarly articles)

  • Time Span: 
    • Some citations as far back as the 1660s and 1670s

  • Updated:
    • Unknown but generally quick

  • Strengths:
    • An excellent resource for finding cited references
    • Free
    • May find more obscure references
    • Too much irrelevant content in search results
    • Few options for sorting results

Image Attributions and Copyright

Unless otherwise noted, these guides are derived from a similar guide at University of Michigan Library.  The original guide is  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license and is attributable to the University of Michigan Library.   Creative Commons