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Citation Analysis: 1. Finding Impact Factors

The Impact Factor

Definition: The journal impact factor measures the importance of a journal by calculating the times it's articles are cited.

How Impact Factor is Calculated: The calculation is based on a two-year period and involves dividing the number of times articles were cited by the number of articles that are citable.

Be Aware

Experts stress that there are limitations in using impact factors to evaluate a scholar's work. There are many reasons cited for not relying on impact factor alone to evaluate the output of a particular individual. Among these are the following:

  • A single factor is not sufficient for evaluating of an author's work.
  • Journal values are meaningless unless compared within the same discipline. Impact factors vary among disciplines. 
  • The impact factor was originally devised to show the impact of a specific journal, not a specific scholar. The quality and impact of the author's work may extend beyond the impact of a particular journal.

According to Jim Testa, a researcher for ThomsonReuters Scientific, the most widespread misuse of the Impact Factor is to evaluate the work of an individual author (instead of a journal). "To say that because a researcher is publishing in a certain journal, he or she is more influential or deserves more credit is not necessarily true. There are many other variables to consider." (interview 6/26/2008 in Thomson Reuters blog entry)

Using Journal Citation Reports

For an overview on the topic, see the Introduction under the Journal Rankings tab.

To use Journal Citation Reports, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Journal Citation Reports.
  2. Select either the Science or Social Sciences Edition and the Year.
  3. Select an option to search for a specific journal, or to view a group of journals.
  4. To search for a specific journal, you may search by Full or Abbreviated journal title, title word, or ISSN.
  5. Click on the journal title to see Journal Information, Impact Factor, Immediacy Index, Cited Half-Life, Cited Journal Graph,etc.

For more information about Journal Citation Reports, click on the Information for New Users located in the upper right hand corner of the database opening page, or view the Journal Citation Reports tutorial created by Thomson ISI.

Tutorial: Find a Journal's Impact Factor Using JCR

This tutorial demonstrates how to find journal impact factors in Web of Knowledge.  However, the information on how to access Journal Citation Reports is for another library, and does not apply to the University of Michigan.  Instead, to access JCR you should go to the University Library's homepage.  Type journal citation reports into the search box and click go.  Journal Citation Reports is the first thing listed under Databases.

Attribution

Much of the content of this guide is based on a guide created at University of Michigan Library and which can be viewed here. Thank you to the group that created that guide and allowed us to make use of the content for our own guide.