Journal bibliometrics

Journal bibliometrics are measures of the attention a journal receives in terms of citations and provide a way to compare journals based on this. While these measures may help inform your journal choice when you are choosing where to publish, they are not necessarily an indicator of quality.  It is important to use qualitative analysis in your judgements of journals and when choosing where to publish, consider many other aspects, such as the scope, audience and trustworthiness of the journal: what to consider when choosing a journal

Journal bibliometrics should not be used for any purpose other than comparing journals – they are not a way to measure the quality or impact of the articles in the journal or the authors of those articles.

Impact factors and some of the other journal level metrics are not normalised to correct for different citation patterns in different disciplines and therefore should not be used to compare journals from different fields. The Metrics toolkit: impact factors page describes in more detail the limitations of this measure.

The links below will show you how to find impact factors and other journal metrics:

Finding a Journal Impact Factor

Journal impact factors are perhaps the most familiar journal bibliometric.  They are  produced by Clarivate Analytics (previously Thomson Reuters) and can be found in the database Journal Citation Reports.

Impact factors can be found for science and social science journals, but are not available for arts and humanities journals.

Clarivate provide a guide to the basics of using journal citation reports and a helpful sheet  showing how to see journals ranked in a category (subject).

It is useful to consider the following:

  • The impact factor reflects the mean frequency  of citation of the articles in a journal. However, the distribution of citations across articles is highly skewed and the impact factor does not reflect the typical citations to an individual article.  Impact factors should never be used to assess the quality or impact of individual articles.
  • Impact factors, should not be used to compare journals across research fields because no account is taken of the difference in citation patterns.  They can however be useful in comparing journals in the same subject area.
  • An impact factor for a journal may have little meaning on it’s own but you can find the rank and quartile of a journal in it’s subject area, based on it’s impact factor.

Impact factors can also be found for an individual journal through the database Web of Science.  When you find an article of interest, click on the title of the journal to see the bibliometrics for that journal.

Finding a journal CiteScore, SJR or SNIP

CiteScores are a relatively new metric from Elsevier, launched in December 2016.  They can be found by clicking on the ‘Sources’ button when in the library database Scopus.

  • Citescores are calculated in a similar way to a Journal impact factor (although there are some differences) but are calculated from a different set of data.
  • More journals are covered by Scopus than by Journal citation reports.
  • Some journals fare very differently in the two systems – this can be to do with the CiteScore calculation including items which are traditionally less cited, such as editorials and letters.
  • You should use the same metric to compare journals – it is invalid to compare the journal impact factor of one journal with the citescore of another.

It is useful to consider the following:

  • In a similar way to impact factors, CiteScores should not be used to compare journals across research fields because no account is taken of the difference in citation patterns.
  • CiteScore percentiles are available and will have more meaning when comparing journals than the number itself.

The calculation of a journal’s Source Normalised Impact per Paper (SNIP) developed by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at the University of Leiden takes into consideration the citation potential of the journal in it’s subject or field.  It is therefore helpful if you wish to compare journals across disciplines.

Scimago Journal Rank (SJR) developed by the SCImago research group is another journal ranking metric, but it accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals the citations come from.

All these metrics can be found at: or  through the “Sources” button when using the library database Scopus.

Other journal metrics

The 5-year-impact factor, journal immediacy index, Eigenfactor score and other journal metrics are available from Journal Citation Reports.

Please make sure you read about and understand the limitations of any of these metrics which you decide to use.

Spurious journal metrics

Please be wary of impact factors and bibliometric measures from sources that may be of questionable validity. The databases; Journal Citation Reports, Web of Science and Scopus as described on these pages are the established sources of journal metrics.

For more information, please see this article: Gutierrez, F. R.S., Beall, J. & Forero, D. A. (2015). Spurious alternative impact factors: the scale of the problem from an academic perspective. Bioessays, 37, 474-476. doi:10.1002/bies.201500011


Using journal metrics wisely

There is a lot of discussion about the merits and issues with journal metrics in the literature and more widely and it is important to use these measures responsibly.  Be sure you understand the limitations of any metrics you use and use them for appropriate purposes. For example:

  • it is recommended to use a number of different metrics (not rely on just one)
  • it is important to use qualitative analysis in your judgements of journals not just the quantitative measures offered by metrics
  • journal bibliometrics should not be used to evaluate the quality of individual articles published in the journals

Please read the University’s guidance on Responsible research metrics: a guide to research assessment and the use of quantitative indicators.