Altmetrics are alternative methods of measuring interest or attention to research outputs and provide information about:

  • social media mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
  • mentions in other media such as blogs, Wikipedia and in the news
  • captures and shares on tools such as Mendeley and CiteULike
  • counts of the number of views and downloads can also be considered altmetrics, but are often available separately from the types of information above

Altmetrics are most commonly available for articles and papers, but can also be found for some other types of material.

Altmetrics should be seen as complementing citation metrics and can be used in building a ‘story’ around the impact of research outputs. The benefits of altmetrics include; being able to track attention to outputs from the wider community not just the scholarly community, seeing more immediate attention before citations are likely to occur and finding out about mentions in documents such as policy documents, which are not usually tracked by the tools that offer citation metrics.

This information from is helpful to understand more about what altmetrics are.

What do altmetrics look like

One of the commonly used providers of altmetrics is the company Altmetric.  Data from them is often displayed in a ‘donut’ like the one below.

If you click on the donut you will see more details about the mentions  on the ‘Altmetrics details page’ with further information providing some meaning to the attention score (the number in the centre of the donut).  You can also follow links to more details about the actual Tweets, news mentions, blog entries etc. that have been recorded.

PlumX Metrics data from Plum Analytics (another company providing this type of information) is indicated by a ‘Plum Print’ like the one below.

Clicking on the ‘Plum Print’ will provide more information on a details page.   There are a range of metrics available and you can follow the links to see more detail about each one. For example you can click on the Tweets link to view all the individual Tweets.

Other altmetrics

While Altmetric and PlumX altmetrics are the most commonly found, there are other altmetrics that you may come across.

These may be produced by the particular resource you are using.  For example, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) has been producing altmetrics for all their journal articles since 2009. The example below from PLOS, includes details about saves, views and  shares on Twitter and Facebook.

Warnke, P., Devide, A., Weise, M., Frickmann, H., Schwarz, N. G., Schäffler, H., … & Podbielski, A. (2016). Utilizing Moist or Dry Swabs for the Sampling of Nasal MRSA Carriers? An In Vivo and In Vitro Study. PloS one11(9), e0163073.

[The images from and Plum Analytics have been used with permission]
How are altmetrics produced

Altmetrics are created by tracking the attention to an output in a source that the altmetrics provider trackers.

The how it works information is useful for understanding how this company tracks social media attention and creates the altmetric data they offer.

You will find that altmetrics are not available for all outputs.  For altmetric data to be collected about an output, the document needs to be uniquely identifiable by a Digital Object Identify (DOI) or similar identifier, depending on the supplier of the altmetrics.  You will therefore find that altmetric data is not available for materials types that do not have unique identifiers.

You may also find that:

  • Older resources may not be covered or tracked
  • An output may not have altmetrics if the domain on which it is hosted is not recognised.
  • A mention may not be tracked if the source where the attention  appeared is not tracked
  • It may not be possible for a mention to be tied to particular output and it will therefore not be counted.

Tip: If you are Tweeting or Blogging about research, ensure to include a DOI or other unique link to research outputs.  See these articles on how Altmetric tracks Twitter and  how to ensure your blog posts are picked up by Altmetric, for more information.

How to find altmetrics about outputs you are interested in

Altmetrics can be found in a variety of places and the information provided will vary.   Often a summary is displayed initially giving numbers of view or tweets, etc. and you need to click to find out more details, for example to see the Tweets, details of the geographic distribution of the attention, etc.

Publisher web pages or journal articles

Publisher’s journal sites usually include an index of all the articles in a journal.  Alongside the article details, some publisher’s also provide data such as the number of views or downloads, altmetrics data about mentions or shares, the altmetrics ‘donut’ or PlumX altmetrics.

Library databases

Some library databases (Dimensions, Scopus, etc.) provide altmetrics data about the articles they index.

You may see a link called ‘Metrics’ or ‘Altmetrics’ next to an article record or you may see the ‘Donut’ or PlumX altmetrics.

Altmetric it!

If you use Chrome, Firefox or Safari you can install a bookmarklet called ‘Altmetric it!’ from in your favorites or bookmarks.  This enables you to  view the online shares and mentions of an article you are viewing in your browser by showing you the Altmetric donut for the paper being viewed.  Once it is installed, find your article online and then click on Altmetric It’

It is easy to  install the ‘Altmetric it!’ bookmarklet.


If you know the DOI of a publication you can see altmetrics for that publication on the PlumX site. Just add the DOI to the link below:

For example:

How to find altmetrics about your own outputs

You can use the methods above to find altmetric data for your own outputs by searching for each one individually. However, it is easier to find altmetrics for your own outputs by using sources where your outputs will all be together.

Almetric Explorer 

Use Altmetric Explorer to track the attention that your research outputs such as articles receive online. It provides data from social media and traditional media (such as newspapers and magazines), and presents it visually so you can see where the attention to a research output has come from.

To use on-campus: choose ‘continue as guest’ (no account needed). To use off-campus, or with personalisation, choose ‘create an account’. Use your SHU email address to create an account.

To find your outputs, search for your name.  You will see your outputs that have almetric data tracked.

The default view shows SHU research outputs, to view content from other institutions go to ‘Edit Search’ and choose to search the ‘Full Altmetric database’.


Browse by your name to find your publications on SHURA.

For documents where this is available, SHURA also includes the Altmetric donut.  Click on the donut to see more information about the Tweets, shares and mentions that the Altmetric donut summarises.

If your paper is on SHURA and also available on a publisher’s web site, there will two places to look to find download or view data.  However if they both include data from Altmeric this should be a repeat of the same data unless there is a problem with it recognising that they are the same item.

For outputs where the manuscript is available, you will also see download data.  The link to ‘View more statistics’  at the bottom of the graph can be used to get details of downloads.


Elements is the University’s  publications management system and is available to SHU staff and doctoral students. When looking at the detailed view of your own publications, you may will see the Altmetrics donut to link you to altmetrics data for your outputs (where any altmetrics data exists).

Social networking services: Academia and ResearchGate

You can share details of your work via social networking sites such as Academia and ResearchGate. These are social networking tools similar to Facebook and LinkedIn but focused on the research community.

If your outputs are listed on Academia, you can see the number of times each output has been viewed and how many views there have been of your outputs in total.

If you have made your outputs available on ResearchGate, you can see the numbers of reads each item has received and the total number of reads for your outputs.

You may wish to find out more about sharing your research on these and other sites.

Other sources of altmetrics

If you have shared your research outputs using FigshareImpactStory or Zenodo  you will be able to see some altmetrics in those services.  Look in their help pages for more information.

If your outputs are in the database of papers on Mendeley you can see the numbers of reads they have had.

These aren’t the only options.  This is a fast developing area and things change and new services appear all the time.  Check and see if the tools you use are offer any altmetrics, but bear in mind that these are new and as yet are not standardised.

Altmetrics alerts

You can automatically keep up to date with new mentions  of or attention to your work and that of others.

If you click on an Altmetric donut or use Altmetric Explorer to see the full details page for your publication or an output of interest to you, you will see an ‘Alert me about mentions’ button. Click on this to enter your email address and confirm that you would like to start receiving notifications.

How to use altmetrics to demonstrate the impact of your research

The following are some of the ways you may wish to use altmetrics:

  • you may wish to use altmetrics in CVs or job applications and in applying for research funding.  They can be used to compliment citation information and measures of the impact of your  research.
  • remember that the underlying information about who is responding to your work and what they are saying is of most value – avoid using just the numbers
  • altmetrics are appropriate for helping  you to tell the story of  individual outputs

Below is an example of how you might consider referring to the altmetrics of one of your outputs:

“This paper is listed on as being in the 98th percentile of outputs of the same age and source.  It was covered in 18 news outlets, including The Independent and the Nursing Times and cited in two policy documents including the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Avoid using just counts e.g.  Twitter mentions: 21, Blog mentions: 8.  Instead, add the context which gives these more meaning.

Have a look at this information about How to use altmetrics with suggestions for how they can be used in CVs, grant applications and job applications.

Bear in mind that these metrics may not always be considered appropriate, depending on your discipline, etc.

How to use altmetrics responsibly

Using altmetrics wisely:

  • remember that attention is not indicative of the quality of the research
  • Altmetric attention ‘scores’ are not an indication of quality or impact – they indicate the overall volume of attention that research has received. The “Score in Context” (found on Altmetric details pages) can be used to understand how a research output’s volume of attention compares to other scores. Have a look at the Metrics toolkit page on altmetrics scores for more information.
  • there is the possibility of gaming altmetrics, so look critically at the data
  • altmetrics are not standardised
  • altmetrics are not normalised by subject

When looking at Almetrics, take the following into account:

  • Many outputs do not have altmetric data – this is not a reflection of their quality or impact
  • Older data is not often available – for example only started collecting data in 2012
  • There is some evidence emerging that the pattern of attention is variable by discipline
  • Alternative social media platforms may not be monitored by the producers of almetric data and therefore altmetric data is not captured.  This can affect the data for outputs, for example in China, where Twitter is blocked

You may find it helpful to read the University’s guidance on Responsible research metrics: a guide to research assessment and the use of quantitative indicators.