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Impact Factor and Journal Metrics

What are Impact Factors?

An Impact Factor is a quantitative measure of the relative importance of a journal, individual article, or author.

Each index or database used to create an impact factor uses a different methodology and produces slightly different results.  This is why it is important to use several sources to gauge the true impact.

This guide includes information on Journal Impact Factor, Author Impact Factor, Article Impact Factor, and Book Impact Factor. The tabs on the left contain specific information about how different metrics are calculated and links to more in-depth resources. 

Responsible Use of Metrics

Informed and careful use of these impact data is essential, and should be based on a thorough understanding of the methodology used to generate impact factors. There are controversial aspects of using impact factors:

  • It is not clear whether the number of times a paper is cited measures its actual quality.
  • Some databases that calculate impact factors fail to incorporate publications including textbooks, handbooks and reference books.
  • Certain disciplines have low numbers of journals and usage. Therefore, one should only compare journals or researchers within the same discipline.
  • Review articles normally are cited more often and therefore can skew results.
  • Self-citing may also skew results.
  • Some resources used to calculate impact factors have inadequate international coverage.
  • Editorial policies can artificially inflate an impact factor.

Before seeking impact metrics, consider what you are trying to show, and take care to contextualize the information appropriately. The recommendations linked below outline appropriate and ethical ways to use research impact data: