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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Research Impact Indicators & Metrics

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We welcome your questions about impact metrics and/or your suggestions to improve this guide. Please contact us at

This guide has been developed by a team of librarians:

  • Christine Turner, Scholarly Communication Librarian
  • Jennifer Chaput, Data Services Librarian
  • Melanie Radik, Science and Engineering Librarian
  • Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, Head, Science and Engineering Librarian, and
  • Sarah Fitzgerald, Assessment and Planning Librarian

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Times Cited

What it is:

Times Cited refers to the total number of times a publication (article, book, or dataset) has been cited or referenced by other publications. Times cited is the primary metric of an article's impact.

What it is used for: 

Citation counts are the fundamental measure of the visibility of scholarship. Citations are the convention for acknowledging the scholarly conversation around a topic, and as such can be used to track the development of ideas and articulate the influence of scholarship. The more citations a work accumulates, the more influential it may be. 

Times your work is cited is used to calculate your H-index.  It's the primary component in determining a journal's impact factor.  It is the primary quantitative metric used to demonstrate the quality your work is assigned by others in your field.

Nota Bene: 

  • Citation counts are cumulative. 
  • Citation counts lack context.
  • Citations counts can be gamed. 
  • Citation counts for an item may differ between source databases, depending on the content they include. 
  • Different document types receive more citations than others, for example review articles are cited more frequently than research papers.
  • Because of their formality, citations account for 1% of uses of a paper, but accordingly carry more weight than altmetrics. 

How to find it: 

Times Cited is captured by indexing databases as well as publishers. Citation counts will differ depending on the source that you use.  

  • Web of Science (available through the Libraries)
    Each article in Web of Science includes a citation count, which displays in the right hand column of the article's full record. Search results can be sorted by citation count and a citation report can be created for any set of search results. 
  • Scopus (available through the Libraries)
    Each article in Scopus includes a citation count. This information is displayed on search results screen, and results can be sorted by citation count. In addition, each article's full record contains its citation count immediately beneath the article citation information and in the topmost right menu. This information is also included under the Metrics heading for each article.  
  • Google Scholar (freely available) 
    Google Scholar displays the number of citations a paper has received with each record. Click "Cited By" to see all of the citing papers, ranked in order of citation count.
    Google Scholar can be searched for non-English language scholarship: go to Google Scholar Settings > Languages to select. 
  • Library Databases (variable, provided by the Libraries)
    Some, though not all, databases will compile citation information and display that with an item record. Citations might come just from the platform or publisher affiliated with the database; some might aggregate citations from other sources. 
  • Publishers Websites (variable, freely available metadata)
    Publishers will often capture and display the citations to articles they publish as article metadata available through their platforms.
  • Scielo (freely available) 
    Scielo is a bibliographic database of Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese open access scholarship. The site can be browsed in Spanish or English. Scielo Analytics (in Beta) are available for all indexed articles and include access counts (html views, pdf downloads) and citations by other Scielo journals. (Note that their Analytics platform is in development so some content may not have complete metrics.)
  • Scite_ (14-day free trial accounts available)
    "Smart citations for better research",  Scite_accounts for the context of a citation, classifying them as supporting, contrasting, or mentioning. 14-day free trial accounts allow for basic searching and alerts. 

Google Scholar has more comprehensive coverage of total citations than either Web of Science or Scopus, and significantly better coverage of citations in the humanities and social sciences. Read more in Martin-Martin et. al.


What it is: 

"Altmetrics" is a term to describe the various measures of online attention that any scholarly output (paper or book or data) receives. Altmetrics demonstrate scholar impact based on diverse online research output, such as social media, online news media, online reference managers and more.

What it is used for: 

Altmetrics are used as a complement to traditional publication metrics, by providing additional context. They accrue faster than citations and help demonstrate the broader impacts of research.

For example, page views and downloads account for more than 90% of the uses of an article, but these uses are not captured in a formal citation. Blogs, shares, and media mentions can demonstrate interest in a research topic outside of academia. 

Nota Bene: 

  • Like all metrics, any altmetric indicators should be presented in context, rather than as a number with intrinsic meaning.
  • The two main providers of altmetric data are Altmetric and Plum Analytics. Their data sources are different so their altmetric scores for a single publication will also differ!

How to Find Altmetrics for an article: 

  • Altmetric Bookmarklet (freely available)
    • “The Altmetric Attention Score is an automatically calculated, weighted count of all of the attention a research output has received [in the online sources tracked by the company Altmetric]."  It incorporates the number of times the work is mentioned, the variety of sources it receives attention from, and the credentials and intended audience of who mentioned it.
    • The Altmetric Bookmarklet allows you to explore the Altmetric Attention Score for any article that has a digital object identifier (DOI). Click on the "Altmetric it!" bookmarklet to view the articles score and get more details from the public Altmetric record for the article, including an embeddable badge. 
  • Altmetric Badges (freely available) 
    • Like the Bookmarklet, Altmetric Badges allow you to view the Altmetric Score for a publication and embed that information in public facing pages. 
    • Customize the size of your badge with the Altmetric Badge generator
  • Dimensions (free application)
    • Dimensions is a linked data dataset produced by Digital Science of over 100 Million publications. It is available freely for personal, no-commercial use. 
    • Search for an article by title or abstract. The complete record will include all linked publications, grants, patents as well as citations and altmetric scores from Altmetric. 
    • Embeddable Dimensions Badges for citation information and Altmetric Badges for Altmetric data are available for each publication record. 
  • Publishers websites (variable)
    • Some publisher may include altmetric data for articles they publish as article metadata available through their platforms. 
  • Institutional Repositories (openly available)
    • Institutional Repositories provide open access to research products and track the number of page views and downloads for each record in their system. 
    • ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst displays download counts and altmetric data for each record. 
  • Scopus (available through the Libraries)
    • Scopus includes PlumX altmetric data on each item's full record, if available. From the article landing page, scroll down to the Metrics heading and expand to see PlumX captures. Click on the PlumX link to read more details.