Citation counts

The main sources for finding citations counts for your articles are Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar.  For each article these will show you how many documents indexed in the source have cited your article.

Consider the following when choosing a source to use:

  • your output(s) must be indexed in the source (pretty obvious really, but some of the resources may not cover your research area)
  • consider whether the source covers the type of material that is likely to cite your work.  For example, Google Scholar tends to cover more types of material, such as citations from books

You are likely to get different results from different tools as the range of literature they cover differs, so it may be worth trying more than one source of citation counts

Finding citation counts

Search for your article on Web of Science. There will be a “Times cited” link on the right hand side of the page with a count of the number of citing articles.

You may also see either “Hot” or “Highly cited” next to your paper.  “Hot” articles were published in the past two years and received enough citations in the last two months to place it in the top 0.1% of papers in the academic field.  “Highly cited” articles are in the top 1% in the academic field.

Search for your article on Scopus. There will be a “Cited by” link on the right hand side of the page with a count of the number of citing articles.

Search for your article on Google Scholar. When you find  your article there will be a link below it to the citing articles and a count of the number.  For example: ‘Cited by 46’

Using citation counts wisely

When using citation counts, there are various issues you should consider:

  • How long ago the work was published and hence how long it has had to accrue citations
  • The number of times an article or other work has been cited should not be used as a measure of the quality of the work, it really only measures the interest of other researchers in the work
  • Controversial or disputed research may be highly cited
  • Researchers my cite their own work disproportionately or favour articles in particular journals
  • Review articles tend to be more highly cited
  • There is often a bias towards citing research published in the English language

You should also remember that discipline citation patterns vary dramatically.  For example, the average of citations per paper 2006 – 2016 (from Thomson Reuters (2016). Baselines: citation rates),  in two subjects are shown below:

  • molecular biology and genetics = 23.99
  • mathematics = 3.99

It is therefore not recommended that you compare articles in different disciplines based on citation counts as there is no normalisation for field or subject.

You can use Essential Science Indicators to find these field baseline citation rates which are annualized expected citation rates in Web of Science for papers in your research field.  Please read this information about Citation Rates to help you to interpret the numbers appropriately.  For example, citation frequency is highly skewed, with many infrequently cited papers and relatively few highly cited papers. Consequently, citation rates should not be interpreted as representing the central tendency of the distribution.

If you use Scopus you can find the percentile and field weighted citation impact. See the Scopus Article Metrics help page for more information.

Please remember that you should use article level metrics responsibly, for example:

  • it is important to use qualitative analysis in your judgements or research outputs not just quantitative measures
  • it is recommended to use a number of different metrics (not rely on just one)
  • use field normalised metrics or percentiles