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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, dataset, etc.) has been cited or referenced by other publications. Times cited is the primary academic quantitative metric of impact.

What it is used for: 

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: 

Databases that index reference lists can provide you with a count of the scholarly items citing your book or book chapter.  The counts will vary by database, as they have access to different data.  Be sure to deduplicate if you choose to combine the counts from different resources.

Keep in mind that the count says very little about how your work is being used by others.  A little investigation of sources citing your work will add valuable details to expand your narrative, such as: 

  • Is it cited in review articles? 
  • Is it a central reference, cited many times, or cited only once in most papers?
  • How do other researchers refer to your work within their articles?

How to find it: 

Web of Science
The Book Citation Index is part of the Core Collection - so just search for your book or book chapter by title or other identifier.  'Times Cited' displays the count.  Click for the list of items citing your work. You can sort the list by discipline and other attributes of citing items.

Google Scholar
Citations to books and book chapters are indexed just like articles.  'Cited By' under the result displays the count and link to the list of items citing it.



What it is:

Sales indicate the number of individuals, libraries, or other organizations that have purchased your book.  They have assigned value to your work by investing money to access the information you produced.  

What it is used for: 

This metric is particularly useful when your work is new, as an indicator of interest that can be measured before researchers could have produced new publications citing your work.  It can also indicate interest in your work coming from outside of academia, as members of the general public who buy your book would not then produce work that cites it.

Nota Bene: 

Sales counts by themselves are not an indicator of how your work is viewed.  E.g., religious conservatives holding book burning parties drove up the sales of the Harry Potter books.  Please consult other indicators for context.

How to find it: 

Your publisher should be able to supply you with your sales numbers.  But if you want other angles on this metric, here are a couple options.

If you set up your author profile on Amazon, you can access U.S. NPD BookScan data including sales by location.

How many libraries hold your book?  Are they public libraries or academic libraries?  Search WorldCat to investigate library holdings worldwide.  If investigating a book chapter, search by the book containing it.


What it is:

A review of your work offers the audience a summary and critique.  Reviews often describe strengths and weaknesses of the material, compare it to similar material on the subject, and offer the audience a recommendation on purchase.

What it is used for:

Reviews help you give context to sales numbers and other quantitative metrics.  They can indicate a judgement of quality within your discipline, the response of the general public, even the effectiveness of a textbook as reviewed by professors and students.  Quotes from positive reviews can add flavor to an otherwise dry description of stats.

Nota Bene:

Professional reviewers often receive the work ahead of the general sale date and try to predict the reaction of the entire audience: they are sometimes incorrect in that prediction, or prone to gatekeeping for their discipline to the detriment of new ideas.  Reviews by the general public can be biased, lacking nuance, or overly emotional reactions without context.  Be careful to provide an unbiased, accurate description of reviews of your work: do not cherry-pick.  

How to find it:

Reviews Within Your Discipline

Reviews within your field are more nuanced and relevant to your impact narrative than those by the general public.  Seek out reviews in journals within your field, particularly big names in your discipline.  Peers within your discipline are influenced both for their individual research needs and textbook options based on these reviews.


Generalist Professional Reviews

Reviews from such names in reviewing as Choice, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, or New York Times Book Review are usually succinct, unbiased, and attempt to place your work within the context of other work available on the subject.  Libraries and the general public make purchase decisions based on reviews by these publications.


Reviews from the General Public

Reviews contributed by the general public can contribute eloquent quotes on the impact of your book to an individual's life.  While most reviewers are anonymized, some share identifiable information on their public profiles and may be peers within your discipline or students in your (or another's) classes.

Amazon users provide ratings of 1-5 stars as well as descriptive reviews.  If you sign up for an Author Profile, you can track reviews for all of your works on your dashboard.

Goodreads users books on a scale from 1-5 stars and offer their personal review and commentary.

Google Books
Google Books information about a work includes rankings and reviews provided by the general public.

Awards, Scholarly Prestige, and Academic Impact

What it is:

Your book or book chapter may have garnered prestigious awards or other indicators of quality, within your field or more broadly.  Awards are highly competitive and often indicate the value placed on your work to the discipline or to society.  Indicators of scholarly prestige can be demands for your work to be made available to a wider audience, such as requests for translations or invitations to present on the topics.  Academic impact can be demonstrated by its use in education, such as use as a textbook.    

What it is used for: 

These indicators of quality are qualitative and should be used to illustrate the overall value others place on your work, whether through disciplinary excellence or general popularity.

Nota Bene: 

As with all indicators, context is necessary and often discipline-specific.  A request for a translation of a chemistry textbook will have different weight than a translation request for a translation studies textbook.

How to find it: 

Your publisher should notify you of many of these, or you would be contacted directly by the organization in question.  Others may be difficult to discover:

  • Has your book been awarded any prizes such as the PROSE Award or noted by an organization as having made a significant contribution to a field?
    • Does your professional organization have a book award?  Has your book been nominated or won?
  • Is the book used as a textbook?
  • Are there subsequent editions to the book or has one been requested by the publisher?
  • Are there any translations of the book or have they been requested?
  • Have you been invited to present on the topic due to the book or book chapter?
  • Have you been invited to book signings?


What it is:

Altmetrics use public APIs across platforms to gather data with open scripts and algorithms. Rather than citation counts, impact factors and H-factors, altmetrics calculate scholarly impact based on diverse online research output, such as social media, online news media, online reference managers and more. 

Altmetrics are most comprehensive if your book or book chapter has been deposited to an online repository and given a unique identifier other than an ISBN, such as a DOI.

What it is used for:

Altmetrics can be used to show early interest in your work, prior to the timeline necessary for journals or monographs in most fields to contribute times cited.  They can also be used to show interest outside of academia. 

Altmetrics are rarely presented as the primary metrics describing your impact, but can complement and provide context for more traditional impact metrics such as times cited.

Nota Bene:

  • Like all metrics, any altmetric "score" should be presented in context, rather than as a number with intrinsic meaning.
  • Much like different databases can provide different times cited numbers due to their different data sources, the two primary companies that provide altmetric scores - Altmetric and Plum Analytics - will differ.  These numbers are much more difficult to deduplicate, so only one should be utilized.

How to find it:

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 publication that has a digital object identifier (DOI). Click on the "Altmetric it!" bookmarklet to view the score and get more details from the public Altmetric record, 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)
A database that offers the most comprehensive collection of linked data in a single platform; from grants, publications, data publications, and clinical trials to patents and policy documents. Because Dimensions maps the entire research lifecycle, you can follow research from funding through output to impact. Includes the Altmetric Attention Score of many scholarly works.

  • Search for a work 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. 


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. 


Direct Investigation
The tools and companies above calculate an altmetric score, using proprietary algorithms, weighting, and ranking.  But you can gather some altmetrics directly from the source without an algorithm or API - just a little investigation.  If you do not think an altmetric score would be viewed favorably by your audience, you can include aspects that demonstrate your work's popularity and provide context to times cited counts and sales.

  • Is the book noted on a publisher’s best-seller list?
  • Is the book noted on any Best Seller lists (e.g. Amazon, New York Times, etc.)?
  • Does it have a Wikipedia page?
  • Has the book been tweeted on Twitter?  Does it have a hashtag?
  • Has it been featured in the news or on a talk show?
  • What is the Mendeley Reader count?