Citations to articles and other outputs have been used for some time as a way of gauging academic attention.

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 download can also be considered altmetrics but are often available separately from the types of information above

Altmetrics should be seen as complementing citation metrics and can be used in building a ‘story’ around the impact of your work. The benefits of altmetrics include; being able to track attention to your 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.

How to use altmetrics

Have a look at the How to use altmetrics section on the What are altmetrics? site.  This provides guidance on how to use altmetrics in a meaningful way in a CV, grant application and for promotion purposes, etc.  However, bear in mind that these measures may not always be considered appropriate depending on your discipline, etc.

The following are some of the things you should consider to enable you to use altmetrics wisely:

  • altmetrics provide an indication of attention, but do not necessarily indicate the quality of the research
  • it is recommended that you don’t compare outputs using altmetric data.  They are more appropriate for telling the story of an individual output
  • the underlying information about who is responding to your work and what they are saying is probably of most value
  • there is the possibility of gaming altmetrics, so look critically at the data
  • altmetrics are not standardised

You may be interested in the Library Research Support Team’s approach to the responsible use of metrics.

What do altmetrics look like? Donuts and Plum prints

When you are using a source that includes altmetrics, you may see a link to ‘Metrics’ or ‘Altmetrics’ or the data may be immediately visible.  However, more often, an image is a link to the altmetrics.  Some examples are below:

One of the commonly used providers of altmetrics is the company  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 it describes and 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, etc. that have been recorded.   However, you may find that you don’t have access to all the information.

Altmetrics attention score

When you are looking at the details of an output on, you can also choose to be alerted about any new mentions of the output.

Plum Analytics

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

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.

You may also come across altmetrics data from other providers and this will be presently differently.

[The images from and Plum Analytics have been used with permission]
Where to find altmetrics

Altmetrics are most commonly available for journal articles and can be found in various places, including the following:

  • the web page for your journal article on the publisher’s website
  • the record for your article on SHURA,
  • the record for your article in a library database such as Scopus
  • by using the ‘Altmetric It!’ bookmarklet
  • on social media sites

Have a look at our more detailed page on where to find altmetrics for more information and examples of finding altmetrics data in all these sources.

Why are there no altmetrics for this document?

You will find that altmetrics data is not consistently available.

  • You may be looking at a site that does not present altmetrics data about the articles or documents.  Have a look at Where to find altmetrics for other places you could try
  • There may not be any altmetrics for the document or article.  For example, in SHURA, the donut will only be visible where there is some altmetric data.
  • For altmetric data to be collected about a document, 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 in many cases altmetric data is not available for materials types that do not have unique identifiers.
  • Older resources may not be included.  For example, started collecting data in July 2011 how it works information is useful for understanding how this company tracks social media attention and creates the altmetric data they offer.

The What are altmetrics? site is a useful source of information about what they are, where to find them and how to use them.