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Research Impact Metrics: Citation Analysis

Learn about citation analysis and some of the most popular tools and methods.


What is citation analysis? 

Citation analysis is the study of the impact and relative importance of an author, an article, or a publication by counting the number of times that author, article, or publication has been cited by others.  

Why conduct citation analysis? 

Citation analysis is conducted for the following purposes: 

  • 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. 
  • To learn more about a field or topic by reading the papers that cite a seminal work in that area. 
  • To establish the impact that a particular work has had by identifying which other authors based their work upon it or cited it within their own papers. 

Comparing Sources for Citation Analysis

There are several tools available for citation analysis, some are subscription-based and others are free. Each tool has its strengths and weakness and none of them covers the entire universe of scholarly publications. Thereby, it is important to use more than one tool to get a fuller picture of the scholarly impact of an author or a journal. Here is a quick summary of what to expect from the three major 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