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Psychology *

This is the primary research guide for Psychology students and faculty.

What are metrics?

How does the scientific community measure how "good" or "great" a journal is? How do you determine the "impact" of an author's work? Should it be purely on the number of citations? Or is it a matter of the "quality" of the research? But then again, how do you measure "quality"?

These questions caused people to create methods on how to calculate the impact or "good-ness" of an article, journal, or author. These calculations and statistical methods are called metrics. Metrics are debated over, and over, and over. Most popular metrics include: number of citations, impact factor, and h-index. There are hundreds of other metrics available, some better defined than others. See the link below for more information about other available metrics.

Impact Factor

One metric used is impact factor. According to Journal Citation Reports (JCR), the impact factor is a ratio focusing on original research. 

Impact factor = # of citations to all items published in the past two years (divided by)
                        # of articles and reviews published over those past two years.

For example, if a journal has an impact factor of 2.5, this means in the indexed year each article published was cited on average 2.5 times in the previous two years.

Impact factor is used for journals only.


Journals have impact factor, authors have the h-index. h-index is somewhat complex calculation taking into account the total number of articles published by an author and the number of citations per article.

An author's h-index, or h, is equal to the number of total articles published, as long as every article has at least h number of citations.

h-index is used for authors only.

Article citations

It's easy to say "how many times has this article been cited?" However, there is no simple answer. This number depends entirely on the database used and how the article references are searched by that database. Take, for example, for the article:

Age differences activity during emotion processing: reflections of age-related decline or increased emotion regulation? by Kaoru Nashiro, Michiko Sakaki, and Mara Mather.

On May 1, 2017:

  • In PubMed, this article was cited 31 times in PMC (an archival database, formerly PubMed Central containing 4.3 million full-text articles)
  • Google Scholar reports: Cited by 90 (with 22 available versions) - the date is incorrect (2011), but the link is to the correct article (Google Scholar searches openly web accessible resources and collects duplicates as versions, includes non-English citations)
  • Scopus says Cited by 49 documents (a database of over over 21,500 peer-reviewed journals plus conference papers, books and patents)
  • Web of Science reports the article was 37 times cited (a database searching 10,000 high-impact journals and additional international conference proceedings)
  • ResearchGate reports 70 citations (a database of author uploaded articles)

Each database or search engine has strengths and limitations. Some (e.g. Google Scholar and ResearchGate) include duplicate listings in their citation numbers. To identify all of the articles, dissertations and books that cite an article, it may be necessary to search multiple databases and keep your own records.