Understanding journal metrics: the impact factor

“Metrics” – we’ve all heard the term, but what does it actually mean and how might it affect where you choose to publish your research?

What is an impact factor?

For a long time, citation metrics were the standard (and only) tool available to evaluate journals and articles systematically. Impact factors were first published as part of Journal Citation Reports®.

How is an impact factor calculated?

The impact factor is a very simple metric. It is the average number of citations received by articles in a journal within a timeframe. It’s calculated in the following way:

Number of citations received in 2012 to 2010 and 2011 content
Number of articles and reviews published in 2010 and 2011

What else do you need to consider?

Across disciplines, there are widely differing citation patterns, database coverage, and dominance of journals, all of which can be seen in the impact factors of individual journals. Differences in impact factor also exist between different kinds of journals (basic, applied, practitioner, or educational).

What other metrics are there?

A large number of other journal-based metrics have been created, based either on the Web of Science or the Scopus databases. These include the Eigenfactor and SNIP.

Watch this video for a quick overview of article metrics, and why they should be important to you as a researcher.
Read the transcript